“Shut-eyed Denial”

A shout-out for a review of Andrew Montford’s “The Hockey Stick Illusion” by Matt Ridley in Prospect Magazine.

Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion is one of the best science books in years. It exposes in delicious detail, datum by datum, how a great scientific mistake of immense political weight was perpetrated, defended and camouflaged by a scientific establishment that should now be red with shame. It is a book about principal components, data mining and confidence intervals—subjects that have never before been made thrilling. It is the biography of a graph.

I can remember when I first paid attention to the “hockey stick” graph at a conference in Cambridge. The temperature line trundled along with little change for centuries, then shot through the roof in the 20th century, like the blade of an ice-hockey stick. I had become somewhat of a sceptic about the science of climate change, but here was emphatic proof that the world was much warmer today; and warming much faster than at any time in a thousand years. I resolved to shed my doubts. I assumed that since it had been published in Nature—the Canterbury Cathedral of scientific literature—it was true.

I was not the only one who was impressed. The graph appeared six times in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s third report in 2001. It was on display as a backdrop at the press conference to launch that report. James Lovelock pinned it to his wall. Al Gore used it in his film (though describing it as something else and with the Y axis upside down). Its author shot to scientific stardom. “It is hard to overestimate how influential this study has been,” said the BBC. The hockey stick is to global warming what St Paul was to Christianity.

The rest of the review is here.

Most tasty quote (my emphasis):

Well, it happens. People make mistakes in science. Corrections get made. That’s how it works, is it not? Few papers get such scrutiny as this had. But that is an even more worrying thought: how much dodgy science is being published without the benefit of an audit by Mcintyre’s ilk? As a long-time champion of science, I find the reaction of the scientific establishment more shocking than anything. The reaction was not even a shrug: it was shut-eyed denial.


  1. David Bailey
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    I have chatted to friends with scientific careers, and like me, they can all recall examples of dodgy science of various sorts.

    Having seen a fair few academic computer programs, I am very cautious about any conclusion that is arrived at primarily by computer analysis. This, of course, was confirmed in the case of the CRU by the HARRY_README file of programmer’s notes.

    Some time ago, the BBC did a program about the problem of contaminated cell lines in cancer research. This has surfaced again recently:


    The amazing thing to me, as an outsider to biology, is that:

    1) The results seemed to make enough sense that nobody twigged that they were testing the wrong type of cells.

    2) Some researchers knew there was a potential problem, but preferred to turn a blind eye.

    I suspect this problem is quite widespread in science. There are probably other “well known scientific facts” that are, like AGW, basically nonsense.

    I have become very cynical. For example, how many times have you read about exotic theories that are proved/disproved by minute fluctuations in the microwave background? Have you ever wondered, as I have, if it is really possible to subtract the local (and obviously asymmetric) contribution of our local galaxy, to reveal tiny fluctuations in the background signal? I don’t know, because I don’t work in the field, but I do wonder, particularly because the issue never seems to be discussed!

    • Philip Thomas
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 5:57 AM | Permalink

      “I suspect this problem is quite widespread in science. There are probably other “well known scientific facts” that are, like AGW, basically nonsense.”

      See psychiatry, archaelogy, anthropology.

      • MikeC
        Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

        Yeah, I think they are in Dorothy denial now…. close eyes, there’s no place like home…

      • UAN
        Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

        Philip Thomas wrote:

        “I suspect this problem is quite widespread in science. There are probably other “well known scientific facts” that are, like AGW, basically nonsense.”

        See psychiatry, archaelogy, anthropology.


        My background is in anthropology and I came very close to making it a career (and sometimes regret I didn’t)–I feel compelled to stand up for the discipline. I’m not sure what “well know scientific facts” in archaeology or anthropology are basically nonsense (psychiatry is on its own :-).

        Here’s a very recent example of what they do:


        Nothing nonsensical about it at all.

        My own skepticism to AGW (which is not just the science, but the whole movement around it) probably comes out of the fundamentals I’ve learn in anthropology. In terms of archaeology and physical anthropology, we know there’s only so much physical things left behind can tell us. We know what it can’t tell us, which is much of the important things of human existence: what past people thought, how they spoke, what their values were, etc. We know what is a guess, no matter how educated, and that ultimately a guesstimate is only that. In climatology, it appears often that educated guesses are accepted as fact. Then someone’s interpretation of that fact is accepted as fact by just saying, “science says”. (yes, I know I’m simplifying here)

        In cultural anthropology we know how difficult it is to really know or understand a group of people, even if you’ve studied and lived with them for a long time. We know how easily our own biases (values, worldview, ideology) can influences analyses–if not our own (which of course we totally account for :-), for sure those of our colleagues. Humans are complex, deep, and very non-linear. Anthropology can provide insight into the human experience, but it knows that it is only one view and it knows it’s not predictive. The one thing that is certain, more than likely, is that what humans believe is real, is really just artificially constructed out of our own minds and experiences and has nothing to do with objective reality.

        People’s belief in AGW is no different, no matter how much it’s based on “science.” If that’s true just with the “as is” of this moment, how much more true is it for long-term future “predictions”? All the more so since we can see how cobbled together many of these GCMs actually are, and see exactly what biases and conditions we are building into them and leaving out. It’s like the line out of the movie “War Games”: It’s all a computer generated fantasy. How we see the future is really a projection of our own (individual and group) subconscious values, hopes, and fears. It’s more a reflection of how we see ourselves today, not how the future will actually be.

        It would be great to have anthropologists take a real look at the whole AGW movement, from a macro view as well as from a more micro view of “The Team” and other groups of players (the different blogs-including CA, advocacy groups, etc.). It’s a unique opportunity to see how a world-view is created and defended and challenged, and the outcome is in doubt. Totally fascinating!

    • Dave
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

      One of the things that people miss is that whilst the scientific method is self-correcting, it is only so in the long-term – over centuries. In the short-term, scientific consensus can be completely at odds with reality.

      • moray watson
        Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

        70% of what we consider to be true at any given point in time will subsequently be proven false.

        • John Ritson
          Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 5:40 AM | Permalink

          Hey Moray, If 70% of what we know is wrong then 70% of what we think is wrong is actually correct.That means we could increase our understanding from 30% to 70% by conducting an experiment reasoning out the consequences and then accepting as truth what we have just disproven by scientific methods. Or even easier we could just guess and we’d get to 50%, have a few beers and you’ll soon see how wrong I am which proves I’m right.

    • Stefan
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 5:41 PM | Permalink

      “Have you ever wondered, as I have, if it is really possible to subtract the local (and obviously asymmetric) contribution of our local galaxy, to reveal tiny fluctuations in the background signal? “I don’t know, because I don’t work in the field, but I do wonder, particularly because the issue never seems to be discussed!”

      Sorry for OT and the long quote, but it has. Have a look at Smoot et al. (Astrophys.J.396:L1-L5,1992. Beginning of Section 3.) who discuss the first-year COBE results. They perform a multipole analysis of the measured background microwave radiation.
      After removing the foreground they have found a dipole anisotropy and emissions from the galactic plane. Motion of an observer with respect to the CMB produces a dipole anisotropy, so assuming that the whole dipole anisotropy is caused by the peculiar velocity of our galaxy they remove it and the well known CMB map remains. In the pile of WMAP publications one can probably find a similar explanation.
      The COBE measurements (almost 20 years ago) were a real breakthrough as they measured anisotropies of a relative strength of 10^-5 with statistic significance. (There are no trees in the sky…)

      • David Bailey
        Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

        Thanks for that reply – is there anything on the web about this? I guess my core worry is still that after performing all that data processing, you would certainly expect some fluctuations in the final result – how sure can anyone be that what remains is not an artifact? Can we possibly know the foreground (presumably local stuff in our galaxy) signal to this precision?

        This is very much an aside to the main discussion, but the fact that so much has been spent on collecting this data, means that finding no statistically significant fluctuations would have been inconvenient, to say the least!

        • Stefan
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 4:58 AM | Permalink

          (OT continued…)

          Well, I guess you have to make sure that you have a very precise measurement and a sound understanding of all systematical errors of the measuring device. WMAP was especially designed for such a high-precision measurement.

          I discovered that the Wikipedia artical on WMAP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkinson_Microwave_Anisotropy_Probe) is not bad. There is also a section on foreground removal. Furthermore,
          you can probably find lots of stuff (primary literature) in the Legacy Archive for Microwave Background Data Analysis (LAMBDA) at http://lambda.gsfc.nasa.gov
          In the left panel there is “CMB related data” and a link to foreground data. There is e.g. the Galactic Emission Mapping project GEM that tries to determine the intensity and distribution of the radio and microwave spectrum of the galaxy. Point-like sources could probably just be cut out of the CMB map as a first step. I haven’t checked these procedures in detail, I have to admit, although I have been followed the first couple of years of WMAP.
          Generally, it’s never bad to be skeptical but the outcome of this research has no political and social consequences, so the stakes are a lot lower and likely no need to fudge data to have a result that fits any preconception.

  2. TerjeP
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

    Off topic. The following article says that Steve bears moral responsibility for the CRU hacking incident.


  3. Xero
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 6:02 PM | Permalink

    How myopic… as if there aren’t dozens of converging lines of evidence, just one graph supporting the whole AGW argument.

    • gdn
      Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

      How myopic…as if the problems are only with one graph.

    • Tim
      Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 6:34 PM | Permalink

      The are not multiple lines of evidence supporting the claim that ‘only CO2 can explain the recent warming’. The only evidence for that claim are climate models. The only evidence offered to show that the climate models are useful is their ability to reproduce the past. If MWP existed and the the climate models cannot produce a warming MWP then they cannot be right about the recent warming.

      The hockey stick matters. Alarmists know this and that is why they have discarded all of their scientific principals in order to preserve it.

    • Francis
      Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

      Really? If it’s only one thing among others, why was it reproduced so many times?

      But the first scandal is that all those people that brandished it and wielded it at “deniers” had never, ever verified the claim AT ALL. I would be fired at my work if I did not challenge and verify the claims of my suppliers.

      • Francis
        Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

        Note: I realize I was not clear: by “reproduced” so many times, I really meant “displayed”, or “postered”, “flashed to the cameras”, etc. Not “reproduced” in the sense of “scientifically reproducible result.”

    • Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

      Actually the only other converging lines of evidence I know of are brothers, sisters, 1st cousins, and illegitimate children of the Mann Hockey Stick. I’d love to see something that isn’t.

  4. Doug Arthur
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM | Permalink

    Who’s denying now?

  5. kim
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 6:32 PM | Permalink

    Hah, J. Quiggin doesn’t get the ‘mole’ joke. Well, that’s not all he doesn’t get.

    I liked the quote about not being able to put the book down because he couldn’t wait to find out which principal component was the perp.

  6. James
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if the Penn State in-house panel currently investigating charges of data manipulation by Dr. Mann will bother to read the book? He has already been cleared of ethical violations based on the email disclosures, peer review abuses and discussions of destroying data subject to FOIA.

    XERO, very true, the Hockey Stick charade is but one drop in one bucket. The problem is there are currently several dozen buckets all catching drops. From glaciers melting in 20 years, to CRU “value added” temperature manipulation, from 32′ rise in sea level predictions, to “hiding the decline,” from tricking data, to blaming every gnat’s fart of AGW….Truly, what’s next?

    The climate has warming slightly. No one knows exactly how much or why. You had better fixate on adapting to climate change, because we lack both the technology and the resources to change it. So just deal with it.

  7. Foo
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:11 PM | Permalink

    It makes you wonder: How much of “settled” science is really science?

    And how much are just statements – uttered by the “kings” of their fields, taken on face value, unchecked by skeptics or critics.

    I am starting to loose faith in the “fact industry”.

    • FHSIV
      Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 8:26 PM | Permalink


      Yes, I agree! But it may be worse than we think!

      With its reliance on statistical analysis and models rather than on the importance of good empirical scientific observation and measurement, ‘climate science’ is more of a social science than a true ‘hard’ science. And, like other social sciences, there are many elements of the ‘science’ process which are subject to interpretation under the influence of real world forces like pursuit of funding, prestige, etc. Who knows what other areas of science-based government policy/regulation have been similarly corrupted and need to be audited?

      Now that I think about it, what areas of understanding in our lives haven’t come to rely on or are at least influenced by ‘consensus’ from perceived authority?

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

      There is not a single peer reviewed paper which scientifically quantifies changes in golbal temperatures based on changes in the concentration of CO2. Thus any claim of the science being settled is politically not scientifically based.

      Whether or not there is a concensus about AGW, when was science aver ruled by a concensus? The scientific method involves the use of facts to prove that something is true or false. The overwhelming consensus in Europe at the beginning of the 15th Century was that the world was flat. The fact that many millions of people believed this does not make it true.

      • Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

        I think I’ve made this comment before. Medieval scholars and sailors did NOT believe the earth was flat. The scholars knew from ancient Greek philosophers the exact diameter of the earth. Sailors knew from the testimony of their own eyes that the earth is curved. Columbus argued that the earth’s diameter was less than the scholars believed, so that sailing westward to reach the Indies was possible. He was wrong; however, his error was almost exactly the correct distance to the New World — an amazing coincidence.

        • Rui Sousa
          Posted Mar 15, 2010 at 5:56 AM | Permalink

          One of the reasons why the Portuguese king denied to finance Columbus adventure, leading Columbus to seek support from the Spanish crown, was the knowledge that the earth was round and the knowledge of the earths diameter. Columbus claim that India was nearby Western Europe was dismissed by Portuguese scholars and sailors as nosense.

        • Brooks Hurd
          Posted Mar 15, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

          The Portuguese scholars would have appreciated our battles with consensus science.

          Mikołaj Kopernik published his treatise “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” in 1543, the year of his death. He had written a forty page work laying out his hypothesis of heliocentrism in 1514. He kept his hypothesis within a small group of acquaintances since the consensus in the 16th Century was that the heavens circled the earth.

  8. BarryW
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:12 PM | Permalink

    “publish or perish” is the norm now days. The desire (need) to get something in print to maintain your position has overtaken the desire to get it right. It’s bled over from the liberal arts into the soft sciences and now into those sciences where there is enough ambiguity that you can fudge such as climatology.

  9. DeWitt Payne
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:20 PM | Permalink

    According to the noted science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon: “90% of everything is crud.” and “Nothing is always absolutely so.” Why should anyone think that science is the exception?

  10. pat
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:21 PM | Permalink

    Bishop Hill has this, plus he comments on this link:

    11 March: Physics World: Concerns raised over Institute of Physics climate submission
    by Michael Banks, news editor of Physics World
    The hockey-stick graph, which is widely considered as a valid result in the climate-research community, was later included into the third assessment report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001.
    The “trick”, as mentioned by Jones in one of his e-mails to Mann, Bradley and Hughes, is a statistical method that is widely accepted in the climate community and is applied to proxy measurements in the years since 1960. It deals with the problem that some tree rings in certain parts of the world have stopped getting bigger since that time, when they ought to have been increasing in size if the world is warming. According to physicist Rasmus Benestad from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and a blogger for realclimate.org, Jones’ reference to “hiding the decline” could have involved removing some tree-ring proxy data from the analysis after 1960 to produce a curve that agrees better with the evidence for global warming..
    BISHOP HILL COMMENT BELOW ARTICLE: Deleting proxy data and splicing in instrumental data is not “widely accepted” in the climate community. In fact Michael Mann himself has said that “No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, “grafted the thermometer record onto” any reconstruction”.
    What was done in the Nature trick was to hide the evidence that the proxy records were not tracking the instrumental records in the twentieth century and were therefore not capable of reliably reconstructing earlier temperatures.
    Benestad’s statement is amazing. Is he really saying it is acceptable to remove evidence that doesn’t agree with the global warming hypothesis? Really?


  11. Paul
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:38 PM | Permalink

    I found the book both informative and riveting. As a newcomer to the details of the hockey stick and the adventures of Steve McIntyre it filled me in on many of the gaps in the story that I had missed. I thought the treatment of the subject was as fair as one could expect. Reading the book was like reading a good thriller novel. It was hard to put down. Popular science meets reality TV in book form. Montford has accomplished something truly remarkable.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 3:31 PM | Permalink


      What you said about the book was my reaction to it as well.

  12. geo
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Permalink

    This still isn’t available for Kindle in the US?

  13. gofer
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

    Who was it that said, “There are no real experts, only those that know a lot about a small part of a certain subject.”

  14. justbeau
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

    Matt Ridley is a smart guy. Its nice Montford earned his salute for teaching a broader audience about the great public service of McIntyre.

  15. jcrabb
    Posted Mar 11, 2010 at 11:54 PM | Permalink

    How come Loehle is the only person to make another reconstruction? the best way to show the error of the Hockey stick is to show the real temperature record for the las 1000 years.

    • Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 2:51 AM | Permalink

      Re: jcrabb (Mar 11 23:54), Craig Loehle isn’t the only person to show other temperature reconstructions that show the MWP etc. Off the top of my head, Monckton collected a lot of studies together; Willie Soon and Sally Baliunas wrote an excellent paper on this which Climategate shows the Team took pains to dismiss and smear (that paper really deserves a rehabilitation); Frank Lansner recently at WUWT has another collection of studies, to the effect that when the HS was published, it was an outlier, not the consensus.

    • jim edwards
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:06 AM | Permalink

      j crabb:

      “the best way to show the error of the Hockey stick is to show the real temperature record for the las 1000 years.”

      We haven’t had thermometers stationed around the globe for a thousand years. How can we show ‘the real temperature record’ ?

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

      My reconstruction:


      is NOT the “real temperature record”. I merely set out to show what happens if you don’t use tree rings–you get a very different result and the MWP reappears. Moberg’s low frequency reconstruction (40% data overlap with my study but very different methods) also shows the MWP:
      Moberg A, Sonechkin DM, Holmgren K, Datsenko NM, Karlén W (2005) Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature 433:613-617

  16. SteveGinIL
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 12:49 AM | Permalink

    The hockey stick is to global warming what St Paul was to Christianity.

    Since he brought up the subject. . .

    That is quite a bit more true than Matt Ridley may have intended it.


    [No religious discussions on CA. The Zamboni will now clear the ice]

    • xanthippa
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 1:29 AM | Permalink

      Re: tracing the role of St. Paul ***snip***

      The CA Zamboni clears all religious discussion from CA

      • Dave
        Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:43 AM | Permalink


        CA Zamboni in operation

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

      Zamboni coming in 3…2…1

    • John M
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Permalink

      Aw c’mon, if you’re going to Zamboni, do it right.

  17. SteveGinIL
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 1:14 AM | Permalink

    @pat Mar 11, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    Bishop Hill has this, plus he comments on this link:

    11 March: Physics World: Concerns raised over Institute of Physics climate submission
    by Michael Banks, news editor of Physics World
    The hockey-stick graph, which is widely considered as a valid result in the climate-research community, was later included into the third assessment report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001.
    The “trick”, as mentioned by Jones in one of his e-mails to Mann, Bradley and Hughes, is a statistical method that is widely accepted in the climate community and is applied to proxy measurements in the years since 1960. It deals with the problem that some tree rings in certain parts of the world have stopped getting bigger since that time, when they ought to have been increasing in size if the world is warming.

    See, now THIS goes to the nub of science, of the basis of Uniformitarianism.

    Stealing from Wikipedia (because it is quicker than paraphrasing it myself):

    Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of naturalism, assumes that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It is frequently summarized as “the present is the key to the past,” because it holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.

    You see, they are violating the very CORE of Uniformitarianism, if they are saying that what is observed in the present is DIFFERENT from what has occurred in the past. They can’t have one standard for tree rings in the last 50 years and a different one for the time before that.

    If Uniformitarianism is the gold standard for science, they were/are completely abrogating that. Actually, in doing so, they are claiming something that they have not formulated a basis for, something to SHOW convincingly that Uniformitarianism does not apply in THIS ONE SITUATION. They don’t even bother trying to argue it: they just apply it and leave it up to everyone else to discover that they’ve changed the rules of science.

    Mr Mann, Mr Briffa, Mr Jones, and assignment:

    Please inform us why the tree ring evidence of the last 50 years should have a different interpretation and quantification from all previous years and centuries.

    And, PLEASE, show your work.

    • George M
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

      @SteveGinIL Mar 12, 2010; 1:14 AM
      “Mr Mann, Mr Briffa, Mr Jones, and assignment:

      Please inform us why the tree ring evidence of the last 50 years should have a different interpretation and quantification from all previous years and centuries.

      And, PLEASE, show your work.”

      This is the key to refuting the hockeystick for presenting to the masses. My only question is why there is not more emphasis on it?

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 7:17 PM | Permalink

      I strongly suggest that you not hold your breath while waiting.

  18. Bryn
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 1:16 AM | Permalink

    “Worthy of a prize?”

    When does Steve M get such recognition?

  19. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 4:54 AM | Permalink

    Grumblebum here. I would be happier if contributors here were self-censoring their ad homs. I did it once, but I think I got away with it.

  20. xzy
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 5:07 AM | Permalink

    Yes but is there any real science on the AAGW side.

    Seems to me that all they have is attack the science.
    Are there papers of independent research laying out AAGW data?

    If so WHERE is it.

    • Ron Cram
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

      If you are looking for a compendium of science showing that AGW will likely not be catastrophic, probably the best to offer is “Climate Change Reconsidered” – a report produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). See http://www.nipccreport.org/index.html

      Steve McIntyre spoke at one of the conferences put on by the Heartland Institute, the publisher of this report, so he may be credited.

      Of course, other scientific papers have been published since which are important. One of the more important is by Stephen Schwartz of Brookhaven National Lab titled “Why Hasn’t Earth Warmed As Much As Expected?”
      See http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=1067

    • David Bailey
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:05 AM | Permalink

      Aren’t you missing the point. AGW is a claim, supposedly based on evidence (data). If the claim can be shown not to be soundly based, it is enough to point this out, using the data that has been already gathered.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:43 AM | Permalink

      If I claim that Bigfoot exists, it is up to me to produce him. It is not up to the sceptics to prove he does not exist. This is the necessary asymmetry in science. In a long mathematical proof it is sufficient for a critic to show that one step is wrong, even if the rest of it is really elegant and clever.

      • Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

        It would be interesting to know how necessary that asymetry really is, and most importantly what “necessary” means in that context.

        Choosing mathematics to exemplify the scientific burden of proof is quite intriguing, as one might wonder when mathematicians infer to the best explanation. (The Church thesis, perhaps?)

        In any case, the AGW hypothesis might not rely on any existential proof, let alone a mathematical one.

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

      The other papers which support the “Hockey Stick” use most of the same proxies. Therefore, they are not independent. Steve McIntyre pointed this out, in this blog, many years ago.

  21. brent
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 5:22 AM | Permalink

    Science Suffers From an Excess of Significance

    Want to win a political argument? Want to get your spouse to change a health habit? Want to get your story on page one? Flash a scientific study


    Most Science Studies
    Appear to Be Tainted
    By Sloppy Analysis

    Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. “People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual,” Dr. Ioannidis said
    He has done systematic looks at the published literature and empirically shown us what we know deep inside our hearts,” said Muin Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to pay more attention to the replication of published scientific results.


    Why Most Published Research Findings Are False



    • Janice Baker
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

      thanks for the references. Looking forward to reading them in detail on a nice beach in Florida.

    • Luther Blissett
      Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

      This pinpoints a problem, articulated recently by the UK’s favourite gynaecologist Baron Winston when he said on BBC radio “Science is not about what is true but about what is more likely”. This may seem horribly post-modern, but it is an accurate reflection of logical positivist philosophy – specifically, the variant re-heated to address the criticism that in its own terms logical positivism could not ever be known to be true. The logical positivists, in their eagerness to abjure any sort of metaphysical or occult object or explanation within science, sacrificed the notion of truth rather than accept the paradox that their philosophy might be true, but they could never know that it was – a metaphysical predicament par excellence.

      Subsequently logical positivism has come to be seen as _the_ philosophy of science. Thus the price of science appearing to be metaphysics-free is truth itself. The cultural ramifications have been enormous, its conception of scientific rationality becoming both the paradigm of rationality and setting agendas and criteria in the arts, the media, and social policy. In the arts for example there has been the tendency to downplay or eliminate “meaning”, as LP (with help from its mathematical logician friends) has strictures on what are meaningful statements and what are not, in favour of images (poetry), sonic effects (music), etc. The current preoccupation with “risk” is an ongoing enterprise in trying to reconcile probabilistic outcomes with a desire for 100% certainty. In media and communications, it is considered less important to adduce reasons than to cause audience reaction. And so on.

      Ironically, science has not escaped either. First, when the use of probabilistic inference is both common and expected, criticism of its applications and conclusions are bound to be deprecated. Second, when the concept of metaphysics has fallen out of common use and understanding, manifestly metaphysical entities (such as “black holes”) and teleologies (such as evolutionary style explanations) are not recognized for what they are and thrive. Third, “the truth” no longer serves as grounds for accepting a statement, position, or theory, so that changing a person’s mind on something devolves to behaviours such as tribal appeals (to shared values, myths, enemies, etc), to “consensus”, and ultimately to ad hominem attacks.

      I am in no doubt what the problem is, but in addressing it, there is a peculiar obstacle – a Fourth effect of logical positvism. In usurping for itself the paradigm of rationality, LP has caused philosophy itself to adjust. No longer is philosophy about its traditional topics and concerns – what there is, what it means, what is good, beautiful, etc. Philosphy, at least as practised by professionals, is now only about using ordinary language correctly. In that way, the contemporary philospher is allowed a vestige of respectability down the pub. It is also why the Wikipedia article on logical positivism is the way it is.

      • JCM
        Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 7:58 PM | Permalink

        Luther Blissett, the former Watford and England footballer. Banged in a lot of goals. Just goes to show not all soccer players are dumb.

      • Pat Frank
        Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 11:06 PM | Permalink

        Science is not the analytical expression of logical positivism. Nor is it about “what is more likely,” gynecological insights notwithstanding.

        Science is about what we know and how we know it, where “know” means independently of personal opinion, of cultural bias, and of subjective mind states.

        Science was formally freed from philosophy when it became explicitly based on observables, but its practitioners were finally freed of the seductions of philosophy and metaphysics only when mathematical physics was consciously applied to observational methods, as introduced by Galileo.

        In fact, science was always based on observables, but that wasn’t clear to early workers, many of whom blended philosophical speculations into their scientific work. The history of Alchemy is a prime example of that.

        Scientific theory is determinedly free of foundational axioms, which also puts an insurmountable barrier between science and philosophy.

        Philosophers are free to do what they like. Logical Positivists have no police arm. They can all, though, take a justifiable pride in their precision of thought and their internally strict methodologies. As a scientist, I can appreciate, and am grateful for, the utility of their epistemolgical methods.

        Black holes, by the way, are predicted by Einstein’s falsifiable theory and their observables are found in the center of galaxies. They’re hardly metaphysical structures. Neither are quarks, even though they cannot be observed directly, either.

        And Evolutionary Theory involves telonomy, not teleology, no matter the occasional lapses in writing or thinking by individual biologists.

        Postmodern critics of science seem invariably to make the mistake of using the foibles of scientists to demonstrate the supposed cultural boundedness of science. It’s a true naivete, mistaking science for ‘what scientists do;’ possibly induced by a blind triumphalist intellectualism. Clearly, a culture-bound phenomenon. :-)

        • MrPete
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

          Re: Pat Frank (Mar 12 23:06),
          Pat and I have lots of disagreements :) but on this we agree: science has to be about phenomena that are physically observable in some way. The interesting thing is, this greatly limits its usefulness to completely describe physical phenomena, because we’re discovering hard limits to what can be observed, particularly at the quantum level… and potentially in climate science as well (cf Browning’s contributions.)

          BTW, teleonomy (“apparent purposefulness”) vs teleology (“ultimate purpose”) appears to be an exercise in obfuscation. I appreciate that chemists are aghast as these issues are seeping into their field. Who knows, this too may show up in climate science sooner or later as well. I like the picture drawn by Hull:

          Haldane [in the 1930s] can be found remarking, ‘Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.’ Today the mistress has become a lawfully wedded wife. Biologists no longer feel obligated to apologize for their use of teleological language; they flaunt it. The only concession which they make to its disreputable past is to rename it ‘teleonomy’.

          And with that, I bid you adieu… too much “real life” these days to hang out.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 4:57 PM | Permalink

          A judgment of teleology requires the plan of design, Pete. I know of none, and invite anyone who has the blueprints for our universe to step forward and present them.

          Failing that, teleology is a mere metaphysical graft onto science, explaining nothing but comforting many.

        • Tom C
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

          Pat –

          The fact that you assume an appeal to teleology is “comforting” is uniquely modern. Other ages considered it terrifying.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 10:27 PM | Permalink

          Good point, Tom, and it hasn’t stopped. Even today, people impute terrifying consequences to their teleology.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 7:49 PM | Permalink

          By the way, Pete, my impression is that we agree on almost everything, including on what constitutes moral behavior. :-) Our only serious disagreement is on the relationship between science and the r-word institution that Steve disallows mentioning on his site.

        • Sleeper
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:39 AM | Permalink

          Re: Pat Frank (Mar 12 23:06),

          Thanks, Pat. Your reply to LB is so much more eloquent (and longer) than mine would have been. I’ll just say, after reading his comment, my bullshit meter was pegged.

        • Luther Blissett
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

          @Pat > Excuse me resorting to rhetoric, but when you say “Black holes … and their observables…” do you not see an issue?

          Let me change a couple of words in this. “The screen in front of me… and its observables…”, “The gods on Mt Olympus… and their observables…”. Which of these is your statement about black holes most like, notwithstanding your personal familiarity, preferences or attitudes, or acknowledged authority?

          My point was that to the extent that postmodern tendencies have crept into science, this is not an accident (or a happy serendipity, as some would have it) but a logical consequence of some characteristic views about science and rationality.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 5:43 PM | Permalink

          There is no issue, Luther, because the observables of black holes are predicted by theory. Your perception that there is an issue apparently arises because you seem to be supposing that the meaning of the observables is inductively, perhaps opportunistically, assigned. It’s not. The meaning of the observables is assigned by reference to predictions from an a priori and falsifiable theory.

          There is no falsifiable theory of Olympian gods. That means no observables can be assigned to such gods, except by personalized fiat. The same is not true of a physical screen displaying physically measurable phenomena.

          Here is a short history of black holes, demonstrating they were predicted from physical theory long before they were discovered.

          Postmodern tendencies may have crept into the thinking of some scientists. To the extent this is true is merely a measure of the number of scientists who fail to understand the distinction between science and opinionizing. They are intellectually deficient in their own profession.

          One will not find any postmodern ideas within any falsifiable scientific theory, meaning within Physics, Chemistry, or Biology. Nor in the theory of any other discipline coherently stemming from them such as Geology, Neuroscience, and Medicine.

          I’d also not agree that postmodern incursions follow logically from certain views about science and rationality, because postmodern thought is inherently irrational. Nothing can logically follow from irrational premises, and nor can logically legitimate views about rationality derive from a stance of irrationality. To suppose otherwise just exemplifies the human capacity for employing logical nonsequiturs to support a comforting end, e.g., in Theology. Postmodern critics of science are guilty of ignoring the logical failure of their premise, in service of a seductive intellectual triumphalism.

          People can graft postmodern sorts of meanings onto science, or may rationalize their subjectivist subversions of science by means of postmodern apologetics, but like Olympian pietetics, it is done by subjective fiat. Such subversions in science will not survive their test.

        • mahong
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 7:09 PM | Permalink

          black holes are distinctly conjecture , metascience.

          It is not because a theory is falsifiable that it is correct btw: It’s falsification might be in the pipeline.

          Show me a black hole, I’ll show you a computer screen and whisperings on the wall.

        • mahong
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

          I agree with Luther
          The AGW debacle should chime in a new science and scepticism.

          Does an electron exist? I never met one so for me they don’t.

          Quarks, they certainly do not exist they are symmetry calculations at best , and a costcentre for European taxpayers at worst.

          I won’t even touch the esoteric 11-dimensional string theories etc.
          Time to sweep the stable.Kaercher.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

          You’ll have to reject most of science, then, too, mahong, not just quarks, electrons, and stellar black holes.

          We can’t directly see bacteria, for example. To detect bacteria we need microscopes, which workings are described by the theories of optics and radiation. Likewise, we can’t see stars, either, or planets (which are merely night sky stationary and moving lights, respectively). Nor can we see gene mutation, natural selection, or historically prior earthquakes. So, you don’t believe all of Physics, all of Chemistry (we can’t see atoms), all of Biology, and all of Medicine.

          If we really pushed your skepticism to its logically implied limits, you’d have to reject the entire world, because all of the external reality you sense are translations by your brain of proxies; the impingements of reflected photons and electrical spikes. None of us directly see or feel anything.

          You leave yourself all alone inside your brain (in which you’d have to disbelieve). Your skepticism is rationally insupportable, and is a prescription for 15th century thinking.

          You have it wrong about theory in science as well. Theories are not judged correct because they have not been falsified. In science, theories are never judged “correct.”

          Theories in science are judged valid (not “correct”) when they are deductively falsifiable, i.e., when they make predictions that are so precise and so improbable that they are put in danger of falsification. So long as they are unfalsified, they are judged as accepted.

          So, your connection of unfalsified and correct is a scientific nonsequitur.

        • mahong
          Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

          Pat you paint the extreme outcomes of philosophising on things, opinioning on extremes are not always the right way to describe a paradigm.

          I believe in microbes allthough I cannot see them all because there is a massive prior art and history accumulated around them. Many and various techniques to observe them.Observeables coalesce and provide convincing evidence.
          An example: people get sick , and a wizzard peering through a microscope sees many of what he calls his microbes..evidence. You cannot do that with your black holes in fact you still have to give a first sign of such evidence.

          Black holes were thought out by a wheelchair patient with lots of time on his hand, and the observable was some faint radiation coming in from lightyears away. 50years on of “science and experiments”,by a whole community of tweed clad professor Calculuses, and the only obervable is still the same faint radiation coming in from light years away, and the same scraped together “theory” around it.

          Oh and it is You that implicitely proclaims theories are correct , not me. Einstein did not predict black holes at all btw. All sorts of “phenomena” could be tweaked out of the maths he borrowed for his relativity theory.

        • mahong
          Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 8:03 AM | Permalink

          The falsification/validation of Einstein’s relativistic theories lies in driving together to a black hole pointed out to us by Hawkins.. If nothing happens to us, Einstein’s theory was wrong.

          This experiment is easy described but difficult to accomplish , even with the democrats and their trillions in power.

          So you see, validation of theories just by being able to dream up “experiments” is insufficient.

          Black holes are snake oil, from the cabinet of Mr Gore.

        • oneuniverse
          Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 9:07 AM | Permalink

          Re: mahong (Mar 14 07:54),

          Mahong wrote: “Pat you paint the extreme outcomes of philosophising on things, opinioning on extremes are not always the right way to describe a paradigm.”

          Mahong, you really should aim for at least some accuracy – Pat’s statements are not at all as you say. Such lack of care is disrespectful and could be (mis?)construed as a deliberate technique to avoid answering points you wish to avoid.

          Isn’t it you who’s “opinioning on extremes”, by the way ? Theories concerning the electron have passed many more falsifiable tests than black holes.

          Mahong: “Does an electron exist? I never met one so for me they don’t.”
          Mahong: “I believe in microbes allthough I cannot see them all because there is a massive prior art and history accumulated around them.”

          The usefulness of the concept of ‘electron’ is not bound to your belief in it.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

          Black holes are a solution to Einstein’s field equations, mahong. That makes them a prediction of his theory. Whatever else is “tweaked out” is also a prediction, and a test, and is how science proceeds. Your disdain is unworthy of his accomplishment, and unworthy of any science-oriented person.

      • stephen richards
        Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

        Baron Winston is also a deep believer in Human Warming of climate as is his other namesake and erstwhile BBC favourite, Dr Winstone. Both of whom follow the traditional line of ‘I can’t think of anything else that might cause the planet to warm ergo its us’.

  22. Chris Wright
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 6:08 AM | Permalink

    I just ordered a copy and I look forward to reading it.

    Several years ago I read an excellent book by Matt Ridley (the title was ‘Genome’, thoroughly recommended). Although the subject was genetics, it contained a perfect example of how the scientific consensus can be completely wrong. As I remember it: in the 1920’s a scientist in Texas first counted the number of chromosomes in the human genome: 24. This quickly became the consensus, quoted in all the text books. One research group gave up their research project because their method showed there were 23 chromosomes, and their method was therefore flawed.

    Just one small problem with this scientific consensus that lasted maybe thirty years: it was completely wrong. The actual number is 23. Ridley wrote that in fact the true number was obvious simply by looking at some photographs in text books. And yet it took decades for the truth to emerge.

    I can’t help thinking there is a strong parallel with the current claimed consensus of AGW and the hockey stick. There’s one big difference, though: this hockey stick belief will cost every one of us many, many thousands of pounds or dollars, and it will cost the world trillions of dollars. But hopefully the truth will prevail. This book – and the work of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick – will have played an important part in restoring the truth, whatever it might be.

    • Francis
      Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 9:08 PM | Permalink

      Another example: paleontologists’ models of human evolution used to evaluate that humans diverged from the other apes 25 million years ago. Then molecular biologist found out it could not be true, because the difference between our proteins and those of chimps and gorillas was too small. The paleontologists derided them for a time, but eventually they lost: 5 million years is now standard.

      Paleontologists were then given a second blow with DNA analysis in the late 80s. They had carefully studied skulls and bones and the “consensus” was that we evolved in all regions (Africa, Europe, Asia) simultaneously. For example, Europeans descended from the Neanderthals. DNA proved that Neanderthals were not close enough for that to be possible. Paleontologists protested and fought but… I think they lost.

      The same thing happens here and there in science: a “consensus” is installed and scientists build up on it, until someone (usually a young person or an expert from another field) shakes their foundations. It is all very fun for the onlookers, but when policy is involved and very important political decisions are in the balance, it is very, very worrying to see people wielding hockey sticks so irresponsibly.

  23. oneuniverse
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 7:59 AM | Permalink

    Article: “I resolved to shed my doubts. I assumed that since it had been published in Nature—the Canterbury Cathedral of scientific literature—it was true.”

    I remember reading Gerry North’s description of his reaction to seeing the hockey stick for the first time – it was a similar conversion experience, from agnosticism to belief. I haven’t been able to find the passage again.

    (“..with a mathematical bent” – the best kind of bent!)

  24. jeff id
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 8:07 AM | Permalink

    I just have to add my two cents. This really is a well written and entertaining book. If the newer guys here want to understand what the Climate Audit fuss has been about for so many years, the book is a great resource that explains the story of the hockey stick’s history from a detailed perspective.

  25. Another Layman Lurker
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 8:20 AM | Permalink

    What happenstance to have brought together Steve and Ross McKitrick and then to have someone with the elegant and lucid writing calibre of His Grace decide to chronicle the story.

    Steve, how on earth have you maintained your composure in the face of all the obstacles. Your actions and blog give evidence of a strong sense of ethics. You must have a remarkable support network in your family and friends.

    Go Steve!

  26. Josh Keeler
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    I think you meant to thank Matt Ridley who wrote the article referenced here reviewing the book. I personally think that “incompetence” is a better word than “filth” in describing government research agencies – most people involved aren’t actually evil, just keeping up appearances so they get the same or bigger paychecks next year.

    • Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

      In some cases the “incompetence” seems willful.

      • Josh Keeler
        Posted Mar 15, 2010 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

        It does seem that way sometimes.

  27. Richard Henry Lee
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

    The book is available at Amazon.com (in addition to amazon.co.uk)

    for $12.24. Amazon sales rank is #384 of all books sold by Amazon and #1 in climate books. By contrast, Al Gore’s book, “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis”, is currently ranked on Amazon at #11,333 and #4 in climate books.

  28. Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    Let me join Jeff Id in recommending this book whole-heartedly. As someone who is competing with the good Bishop, let me just say that his book is an excellent description and extremely clear. It’s just a good book.

  29. Kevin
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 4:53 PM | Permalink


    I am reading HSI right now. Your patience and persistence are inspiring. You’re a model to emulate.

    Big Kudos!! Way to kick A$$!!

  30. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 7:26 PM | Permalink

    John A,

    Thanks very much for this!

  31. Calvin Ball
    Posted Mar 12, 2010 at 9:53 PM | Permalink

    This is completely off topic, and I have no idea who “deepclimate” is, but they’re seriously using your name and Ross’ in vain. FWIW.

  32. Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 7:45 AM | Permalink

    Monfort, aka Bishop Hill (http://bishophill.squarespace.com/), reported yesterday that he is the #2 popular science book on Amazon.co.uk, and in the top 100 overall. He’s currently #329 on US Amazon.

    I’m sure that reviews on either site would be welcome.

  33. Desmond
    Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:50 AM | Permalink

    Let’s have a little fun with this. I’m definitely buying this book, the question is who’s link will I click from who’s blog? The blogger that can argue his case from a position of authority and with the best ad hom arguments (preferably peer reviewed) will win my click. Try to use as many theoretical/irrelevant, out of date, anecdotal and faith based arguments as you can.

  34. toyotawhizguy
    Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    I first saw the shameless Mann “Hockey Stick” on CNN’s website in the summer of 2006. I had a very strong initial reaction to it. I thought it about as credible as the photoshopped image of “Fireball Earth” that accompanied it. The news staff’s zeal to overstate the issues by providing Dante’s Inferno-esque graphics provided several subtle clues to the reader.
    The Shut-eyed denial, I’m sure was in part due to laziness, in other cases was nothing short of complicity.

  35. Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Great book. And now Amazon.co.uk recommends denialist literature for me.. Beyond the Hoax or A Mathematician’s Apology or Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, what to order next ? So difficult now.

  36. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

    It is easy to imagine that national military bodies have accumulated masses of data against which aspects of current climate theory can be compared. Maybe we are being 4-eyed by considering only CRU/Hadley, NOAA, GISS and the Japanese global temperature estimates. Maybe various defense establisments have heaps of relevant material also. The military might hold a compendium of good science, but unless it is revealed to the public when major public policy decisions are involved, it is open to the same criticism that was the starting point for Climate Audit (“release the data”) that intensified after Climategate.

    For example, there are plausible reasons why the military might be interested in the accuracy of satellite orbits and hence, as a derivation, the subject of sea level change.

    It is also easy to imagine a scenario whereby some Governments are reluctant to embrace a civilian version of Global Warming when a military version tells a different story. Sweden might have thought that way recently. The past USA reluctance to sign Kyoto might be a signal.

    If there is mileage in these conjectures, then where does it place the military? Presumably they are dominated by strict non-disclosure legisation, both personal and corporate. However, if the generals are sitting on data that tell a different story, surely their Governments have an obligation to release to the people that this is the case.

    This has become more important now that suspicion about civilian work has been increased by Climategate.

    Should parliaments start making statements better than “cannot confirm or deny?”

  37. Francis
    Posted Mar 13, 2010 at 8:24 PM | Permalink

    I’m relatively new to the debate about global warming. I left it somewhere in 2001, when it was already so political that I found I didn’t have time to sort out what was right and what was wrong in all that. I came back, of course, because of Climategate, and now I am catching up.

    And I just discovered the Hockey Stick Affair and the role of Mr. McIntyre in it. I cannot say I understand yet all the scientific details of it, but I can already congratulate (and thank) Mr. McIntyre for his pluck in that incredible saga.

    May I ask readers of Climate Audit to help me with the following questions:

    a) I remember some years ago seeing many headliness about “the Republicans war on science” and the “attempt of politicians to indimidate or stifle scientists”. Was that about the Senate investigation on the Hockey Stick?

    b) Despite the Wegman report, I see the Hockey Stick is still around and Realclimate says it is still valid. Is it, or is it not?

    c) Are there some other proxies of past temperature levels that produce a Hockey Stick and that have been audited (this time)?

    Thank you.

    • Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 5:25 AM | Permalink


      a) Dunno. “The Republican War on Science” was a book by Chris Mooney. Quite how the Republicans were waging war on science when they were voting in huge spending on science in general and climate science in particular, was and is baffling to me. But who am I compared to a mega-genius like Chris Mooney?

      b) The Hockey Stick is invalid. Realclimate is talking nonsense. But its well paid and lucrative nonsense.

      c) Yes. The Wegman Report mentions those. As Steve reported, they use the same dubious proxies over and over and the same bad statistical methods over and over and call themselves “independent”. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

      • Francis
        Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 4:37 PM | Permalink

        Thank you, John A!

        Well, your answers are not equivocal, to say the least!

        “It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious”. I totally agree. Nobody in their right mind would buy a used car from these people. (With due respect to used cars salesmen.)

    • OldUnixHead
      Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 10:10 PM | Permalink

      My recollection, viz question a) FWIW, is that a good bit of the uproar came from J. Hansen of NASA/GISS during the 2001-2004 timeframe complaining that his work outputs/opinions were being suppressed due to the political views of his organization;s management chain.

  38. mahong
    Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    The usefulness of the concept of ‘electron’ is not bound to your belief in it.

    No it is not, but all of electronics and our present high-tech world, can (and has been so) be construed without believing in it.

    from wikipedia:
    the electron is a subatomic particle that carries a negative electric charge.

    We all know particles aren’t “out there” don’t we ?
    So it carries a negative charge? I’d say the charge “it” carries has quite positive effects.

    electrons are snakeoil from Mr Gore’s cabinet. Next to the bottle with black holes.

  39. mahong
    Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    I cherish the theory that on Pandora/2 rocks fly faster and higher than on Pandora/1. And they eat black holes for lunch.

    Einstein did not object to it.

    It can be falsified by going there and checking it out, so you better validate my theory now or you have problems with oneuniverse and pat.

    It is a valid theory.

    Going to propose a giant collander now to the EU , to get more details about it.

  40. oneuniverse
    Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

    Mahong wrote: “No it is not, but all of electronics and our present high-tech world, can (and has been so) be construed without believing in it.”

    What are the electron-free explanations of all electronics that you refer to – would you mind providing a reference? Are these explanations any good?

    Science doesn’t ask you to believe in the electron. It’s just proved to be a very useful concept in describing and predicting certain observed phenomena in nature. You may choose to construe modern electronics without recourse to the scientific understanding used to design them, yet the fact that the designs repeatedly work is good evidence that the scientific concepts involved in the designs are not just ‘snake oil’, but the opposite – they are profoundly useful.

    • oneuniverse
      Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 11:18 AM | Permalink

      Re: oneuniverse (Mar 14 11:11),

      Way OT .. please snip at will.

    • Pat Frank
      Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

      oneuniverse, your points are well-taken, but mahong clearly has trouble discerning the difference between bald assertions (the moon is made of green cheese) and deduction from a falsifiable theory. He’s also now bordering on trolldom, and it’s probably best to leave off.

      • oneuniverse
        Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

        Re: Pat Frank (Mar 14 12:46),

        Right you are.. thanks for your earlier replies to LB & m, I enjoyed them at any rate :)

    • mahong
      Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

      Your electron concept might be profoundly useful -I do not know of any electronics hobbyist having a jar with electrons on the shelf though-useful for oneuniverse but not real.

      Locking in on false platonic imagery, like all of present day scientific education nowadays, stops progress and had its day.

      I did not say anything like the moon is made from green cheese.
      Interesting thought on the moon project though is the way Nasa handled the primordial question if there were water on the moon(main component of cheese ). aaah a few billions spent in the 60s-90s by the “scientists” and they were still not too sure about it . 2009 they had to send in a missile on the moon to be sure. They’re still not too sure.

      black holes : nothing falsifiable there, all snakeoil. Haven’t seen a valid argument from you guys on it.

  41. mahong
    Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    Black holes are a solution to Einstein’s field equations, mahong. That makes them a prediction of his theory. Whatever else is “tweaked out” is also a prediction, and a test, and is how science proceeds.

    So BH are something mathematical not physical, thanks for sorting this out for me.
    I fail to see where your test’s been validated, your science is proceeding? on a computer screen? facebook ??

  42. EdeF
    Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

    If you haven’t already, I would encourage readers to get a copy of the Bishop’s new book. It is a great and exciting read, a real detective story. You will find a good description of Steve McIntyre’s first forays into climate auditing, his discovery of problems with MBH98s Hockey Stick, his partnership with Ross McKittrick to write a response (MM2003), the politiics and difficulty of getting the report published in Nature, the nascent beginning of Climate Audit. You will get some background on some names you might have heard about: Amman and Wahl, Schneider, Mann, Jones and D’Arrigo. The Bishop is a very good writer, the explanations of events and the math are written in a style that is accessible to a wide range of readers. I am beginning to understand better how the Hockey Stick was broken, why just having a few hockey stick shapes in the 20th century allowed the reconstructions to take on the hockey stick shape. I was astounded to find that the R-squared statistic generated by the Team when the proxies were correlated with the temperature data was close to zero, essentially there was very little correlation between (mainly) tree rings and temperature, and that it was known that bristlecone pines in the White Mtns were thought to have had increased tree rings in the 20th century due to CO2 fertilization, and not increased local temperature.

    Then I found out that Steve M. played Rugby at Oxford and that did it. My appreciation of him is even higher after hearing that! (I played American Football
    in high school.)

    • nono
      Posted Mar 17, 2010 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

      yeah, the “difficulty of getting the report published in Nature”

      In my (thanks god) less mediatized field of lithosphere’s thermal structure, there’s a clown who self allegedly debunked the accepted thermal models of the lithosphere. However, he is not able to publish in any reputable journal, and he usually ends up in some E&E-style journal or he simply uploads his manuscript in arXiv. Funnily enough, he complains that he is being censored by the community.
      Others simply think that his work is crap.

      Conclusion is: when you’re work cannot pass through the reviewing stage because it’s crappy, blame community censorship.

      • Mark T
        Posted Mar 18, 2010 at 9:09 PM | Permalink

        when you’re work cannot pass through the reviewing stage because it’s crappy, blame community censorship.

        Most people here simply relied on the relatively easy to prove correct mathematics and statistics (by Steve and Ross, et al.) as evidence of community censorship.


      • Mark T
        Posted Mar 18, 2010 at 9:10 PM | Permalink

        Well, that and their open admission that they were doing exactly that didn’t hurt, either.


      • nono
        Posted Mar 19, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

        First of all, “the relatively easy to prove correct mathematics and statistics” is regularly dismissed in realclimate, which is itself regularly dismissed in climateaudit, and so on, and I find it hard to decide myself based on such a blog war.

        As for the community admitting censorship, well, to come back to my above example, the clown managed to publish in some little journal, with the result of receiving a comment to his article calling for the “community to ignore his work”, and he was not able to publish his subsequent works. “Censorship”, “shut-eyed denial”, that’s how he must feel…

        Others simply think that his work is crap.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Mar 19, 2010 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

          Re: nono (Mar 19 09:57),

          First of all, “the relatively easy to prove correct mathematics and statistics” is regularly dismissed in realclimate, which is itself regularly dismissed in climateaudit, and so on, and I find it hard to decide myself based on such a blog war.

          Come on, show us what you mean. Go to realclimate and bring us a dismissal by them so we can compare it with the original work by Steve, et. al. The fact is that realclimate never actually looks at the actual work, but relies on half-truths, ad homs and red herrings. We’d love to see you try defending their smears here. Then we could show where it’s wrong without having our posts clipped.

        • nono
          Posted Mar 19, 2010 at 4:42 PM | Permalink

          well to begin with, there’s McIntyre’s claim that the hockey stick appears even whith red noise as input. Here is realclimate’s dismissal:



          I haven’t searched more, but I guess that McIntyre dismissed these rebuttals, then realclimate debunked McIntyre, and so on, and the blog war will never end.

        • nono
          Posted Mar 21, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

          well I tried to, but I seems that my answer has been “moderated”.
          Let me try again: the links below point to dismissals of McIntyre claims about the hockey stick (e.g., that it appears even with red noise as input).




          [RomanM: For your information, this comment was "moderated" by the spam filter. I presume that any previous comment of the same form would have also been caught the same way. Including very little text and several links will almost automatically be flagged - in my view, pretty reasonably.

          I doubt that Steve McI. has been on the site recently and I happened to find this one by accident.]

        • Jimchip
          Posted Mar 21, 2010 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

          Re: nono (Mar 21 10:17),

          So nono, I agree with RomanM, Ya hit the spam filter.

          RomanM described it well. My notion is that I have gone “on moderation” more than once (or, I’m way beyond “thrice” and don’t know the higher) but ‘somewhere’ in climate audit policy is what to do if ya hit the spam filter [I'm assuming if one is bothered about spam filters, which I'm not.]

          Anyway, I was just reading the comments based on this post and thought I’d say that RomanM gave a very good description and since I am ‘writing’ more than I’m ‘linking’ this might just make it through.

          I am not a “moderater”, I just thought I would describe my experience.

          I was never here. I did not say this. :)

        • Mark T
          Posted Mar 22, 2010 at 3:12 AM | Permalink

          Realclimate’s claims are complete nonsense. Half the time they don’t even address Steve’s actual assertions, they move to something similar and attack it, i.e., they argue a strawman.


      • Posted Mar 22, 2010 at 4:05 AM | Permalink

        Re: nono (Mar 17 12:59),
        Nono, you claim to work on the lithosphere. If so, you might have heard of a journal called GRL, one of the most highly regarded in the field? Look at vol 32, L03710.
        Also, if you are really a scientist, you will know that it is very difficult to get even good work into Nature.

        • nono
          Posted Mar 22, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

          I read the GRL paper of Steve. It has been subsequently criticized a couple of times in peer-reviewed literature, e.g. here:


          Code available here:


          Is there a (non-blog) response to these critics?

        • nono
          Posted Mar 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM | Permalink

          (hit the “spam filter” again, I guess. Second try.)

          I read the GRL paper of Steve. It has been subsequently criticized a couple of times in peer-reviewed literature, e.g. here (the guys also provide the code):


          Is there a (non-blog) response to these critics?

          My feeling is that the GRL paper failed the test of time, that is, it did not convince many scientists.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Mar 22, 2010 at 6:35 PM | Permalink

          Re: nono (Mar 22 16:21),

          You really need to read some of Steve’s responses to these supposed refutations. Go to the left hand margin here and click on the Categories drop-down. It will let you find threads on the various papers, such as Wahl and Ammann.

          I tried forming a response to the links you sent above. The problem I’ve run into is that the graphs both here and on RC don’t seem to work anymore. This makes it difficult to make an understandable presentation. The first two links to early Real Climate posts don’t really provide much to work with. Steve was supported in his claims both by the NAS panel and by the ad hoc panel of Wegman. Of course the team claim that NAS supported Mann, but this isn’t correct. If you read their report, what they said is that while the off-centered PCs weren’t correct,there were plenty of other multiproxy studies which supported Mann independently. But this is just wrong. All the other multi-proxy studies at that time and since for that matter, use the same proxies cherry-picked from Mann’s list, or variations on the same theme. I hate just telling you to read all the appropriate threads here, but they have things in much more detail than I can provide. I would be happy to find answers to specific questions related to a given “refutation” of one of Steve’s findings.

  43. Posted Mar 14, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Permalink


    The reasoon why I did’t mention the variations and details of the temperature gradient is because they are not relavent to the point. An inversion is not the zone which stays exactly -19C and emits all radiation into space as required by the loony theory of warmists. What keeps radiation from going into space from -18C, -17C, -16C, etc. When you argue just to argue, you need to explain the relevance.

  44. WA777
    Posted Mar 15, 2010 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    Hockey Stick makers “very likely” can not redeem themselves.
    The IPCC “very likely” can not redeem itself.
    The Nobel Prize Committee might have a shot:
    Steve McIntyre for a Nobel Prize in Mathematics.
    No prior laureate has saved humanity from so much impending famine, death, destruction and impoverishment.

    • Jimchip
      Posted Mar 15, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

      Re: WA777 (Mar 15 14:39),

      Sorry, No “Nobel” in Math…rumor has it that Nobel didn’t like mathematicians. The old saw is that if ya want a Nobel in math, ya’ go into Economics.

      • WA777
        Posted Mar 15, 2010 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

        Re: Jimchip (Mar 15 15:12),
        OOOPS! Right you are! Pity. No hope then for the Nobel Committee.
        And Steve McIntyre has too much experience for the Fields Medal.
        The only option left appears to be
        Make a Donation.

  45. Ed Snack
    Posted Mar 18, 2010 at 3:09 AM | Permalink

    Somewhere else where’s there’s “shut-eyed denial” is on Tamino’s blog about the Beenstock & Reingewertz paper on the independence of the trend in CO2 concentration and temperature. Tamino first quotes at length from what seems to be an undergrad textbook, then applies the wrong test to reject the null unit root hypothesis. When the use of the wrong test is pointed out, he effectively sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts “lalalalalalalala I can’t hear you !”. And his claque of worse than ignorant prats are uttering drunken shouts of approval. Score, VS “lots”, Tamino 0. God they’re thick.

    • ianl8888
      Posted Mar 18, 2010 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

      Yes, that’s happening but it’s a minor irritant to the actual thread

      A post by whbabcock summarises the situation very accurately and so far the AGW physicists have studiously ignored this post

      A truly interesting thread !!

      Try ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com

    • nono
      Posted Mar 19, 2010 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

      yeah, VS shows that, from the statistical properties of the temperature serie, it can be seen as a particular realization of a stochastic process (here, a random walk).

      Actually, everything, from the gravity field to topography, can be seen as a particular realization of some stochastic process provided you chose the right autocorrelation structure. (Contouring techniques such as kriging as based on that.)

      Does it mean that temperature evolution or topography or the gravity field are in essence random processes? (That Newton law is a hoax?) No, and VS admits it.

      Which is why I find the remark of limited interest.

  46. Gunnar
    Posted Mar 19, 2010 at 11:13 PM | Permalink

    Steve, this is the book I’ve been saying you should have written.

    • bender
      Posted Jun 26, 2010 at 4:05 AM | Permalink

      And now you know why your words were wasted. Did you really think no one was going to write the story.

  47. mahong
    Posted Mar 20, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    I still don’t feel comfortable with the consensus around black holes?
    Reluctantly I could admit to the concept of an electron for whatever purpose that might be good (none, I think) but black holes? nevah.

    Anyways I might as well be wrong.

    Wikipedia says the Geneva Great Haddock Colander -could- create a black hole?
    What does NYT Tom Friedman about this then..I heard him saying on CNN that AGW tru or false it is just for the risk of it that we should pour the billions into windmills.. So sure Tom wants the GHC closed then???

    • Posted Mar 21, 2010 at 12:14 AM | Permalink

      Then show how their theories are wrong, and you’ll get yourself a Nobel prize. Just not being comfortable with it isn’t much to crow about.

      • mahong
        Posted Mar 21, 2010 at 5:58 PM | Permalink

        The discomfort arises from the blackholes being so unreachable.

        I might be wrong,but there is not much to crow about the BH either which is what I am saying. There are no alternative paths to gain any knowledge from them except someone interpretes supposed Stellar Convergences or alledged bent radiation seen over a couple of decades as the manifestation of a blackhole.

        Pinning scant observation on one theory is dubious.
        This is not an issue of getting a nobel, discovering something, but of pointing out the futility in this area of scurtiny.
        OK it is “nice” to develop a concept, but it comes with its cost: Generations of physics students have to master the concept of BHs and “string theory” now.
        It reminds me of people having to learn ball trigonometry which served no purpose whatsoever for 10generations except 5 people. caveat : trigonometry is true and valid, BHs we even do not know if they are true. You can come with Einstein as much as you want: You do not know if BHs exist.

        The glitterings on computer screens can be explained by spacetime being not the platonic straightlines (or smooth curvy lines) but rather a more complicated setup.

        The William of Ockham Rasor which compels the scientific establishment to take the simplest solution/explanation for truth is distinctly invalid in the large maybe also in the small. Or rather in the “unreachable”. The ultimate physical reality is not the anthropgenically appealing simplest solution.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Mar 22, 2010 at 12:15 AM | Permalink

          Re: mahong (Mar 21 17:58),

          Boring! There are plenty of proofs of black holes. In any case you’re off topic here and I’m not going to waste time presenting the proofs to you just to get the thread snipped. Go find someplace where proofs of black holes is on topic.

          [RomanM: I strongly agree. No more on this topic here please.]

        • mahong
          Posted Mar 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM | Permalink

          now you’re pissing me off, I’ll join the other side the agw alarmist side then.
          this snipping seems to get fashionable?
          The essence of fashion is that it comes and goes.

  48. Jsco
    Posted Apr 3, 2010 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

    I have had this book on order from Amazon since this thread was created. Amazon say’s they have not had any luck yet getting any copies. Is there some other source I could use to actually get one?!? (Amazon claims I can cancel the order if I like.


  49. Punksta
    Posted Apr 4, 2010 at 3:49 AM | Permalink

    “I was not the only one who was impressed [with the hockey stick graphic] ….James Lovelock pinned it to his wall…. ”

    Lovelock’s recent comments may be of interest.


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