“Philosophy of Science and Climategate”

The Twenty-Second Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association in Montreal, Quebec (not far from Toronto) on November 4-6, 2010. Presenters were from all over North America and Europe. One session was entitled “The CRU E-mails: Perspectives from Philosophy of Science”, chaired by Kathleen Okruhlik (University of Western Ontario),
where Naomi Oreskes was one of the presenters:

Naomi Oreskes (University of California, San Diego), “The Climate Model E-mails: Normal Science or Ethical Dilemma?”
Wendy S Parker (Ohio University), “The Context of Climate Science: Norms, Pressure and Progress”
Kristin Shrader-Frechette (University of Notre Dame), “Scientifically Legitimate Ways to Cook and Trim Data: The Hacked and Leaked Climate Emails”
James McAllister (University of Leiden), “Errors, Blunders, and the Construction of Climate Change Facts”

Notes from a session attendee are online here. Nov 12: The author of these notes opined on climategate last year here.


  1. Tom
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

    Am I the only one who looked at that and thought it was another story about a white-wash investigation? Surely even Muir Russell took more than twenty seconds!

  2. fredb
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

    These talks reflect a degree of maturity that has been almost entirely absent from the public blogsphere. The positions taken reflect an understanding of the complexity of the context, and strikes a marked contrast the the almost-conspiracy theory approach seen in most discussions. It also raises some very difficult questions that the blogsphere has yet to intelligently grapple with, let alone even identify.

    • Ed Snack
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

      Degree of maturity fredb, degree of maturity !??! I read through the linked post so I can only comment on that writer’s impressions, but it seems absolutley clear to me that the whole conference resolutely refused to address any of the significant issues beyond the “how does it affect ME and how do I protect the AGW hypothesis from attacks based on facts”.

      A set of partisans with fixed mindsets trying to address openness, not exactly a clever idea, IMHO.

      • fredb
        Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 2:45 AM | Permalink

        I guess we have different views of “mature”. To my reading these talks shows an ability to step back from the emotion and examine the underlying context, presented from the point of view of those experienced in the philosophical framing of societal behavior. But we’re all entitled to our interpretation, so I’ll agree to disagree with you.

        • DEEBEE
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 6:18 AM | Permalink

          In the above you seemed to be telegraphing an obeisance to expertise. Perhaps I am too sensitized to consensus based approach to science. My take away was the same as Ed’s. I would prefer to understand your assessment rather than just agree to disagree. I do agree that the tonal temperature was low. But addressing the concerns of thenon-yahoo skeptic world was breathtakingly gaping.

    • Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 12:21 AM | Permalink

      “PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data.
      Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !” –Phil Jones


    • hunter
      Posted Nov 15, 2010 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

      Apparently for many in the AGW community, ‘maturity’ equates to ‘lying’.

  3. Craig Loehle
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    Some false premises by the speakers:
    Oreskes: assumes that there is no question about the need to change consumption and that the need is to make it not seem to hurt so much.
    Parker: assumes that the resources to comply with FOI are not adequate, ignoring the fact that many journals already require (but don’t enforce) data availability, and that policy critical data like Hadley are not the same as an average paper.
    Shrader-Frechette: assumes that the scientists “had reason to believe the post-1960 data was bad” in “hide the decline”, but they had no reason whatsoever, they just didn’t like it.
    The McAllister talk looks interesting.

    • Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 10:14 AM | Permalink

      Agree with all that. Another point of interest for me was Parker’s treatment of ‘transparency’.

      Parker observed that while we tend to look favorably on transparency, we probably need to say more about what transparency should amount to. Are we talking about making something available and open to scrutiny (i.e., making “transparency” roughly the opposite of “secrecy”)? Are we talking about making something understandable or usable, perhaps by providing fully explained nontechnical accounts of scientific methods and findings for the media (i.e., making “transparency” roughly the opposite of “opacity”)?

      What exactly do we imagine ought to be made available? Research methods? Raw and/or processed data? Computer code? Lab notebooks? E-mail correspondence?

      As I understand them, on the second paragraph open science radicals like Dr Cameron Neylon of Rutherford Appleton Labs argue ‘all of the above’. All power to their elbow.

      But on the first I feel a sly historical narrative is also being constructed. The fact is that Steve and others were not neophytes asking for their hands to be held because they couldn’t understand the science and stats if they received raw data and code, the poor things. As McAllister makes clear they were shut out and made to look stupid through no fault of their own but through arbitrary exercises of power – at least until books like The Hockey Stick Illusion laid out the detail so that ordinary folk could grasp the extent of the lack of openness, mediocrity and hypocrisy.

      Steve has gone the extra mile in making something of virtually nothing on so many occasions. He should of course have been included foursquare in all the inquiries, so that the confrontation between the two parties was fairly represented and the voting public could make up their own minds. But the genie’s out the bottle now. Climategate hasn’t gone away. Perhaps I don’t smell fear in all this latest PR and intricate construction of smokescreens. Perhaps what I smell is a cup of freshly brewed tea in Washington DC. Whatever, the battle’s barely begun.

      • davidc
        Posted Nov 15, 2010 at 11:25 PM | Permalink

        “McAllister makes clear they were shut out and made to look stupid through no fault of their own but through arbitrary exercises of power”

        Well, I think they tried to make them look stupid but failed, making themselves look stupid instead.

  4. Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    What a load of crap that meeting was, if not the summary at scientopia.org was highly biased.

    Each of the four speakers on the subject tended to portray the climatologists as victims. It is obvious the speakers did not try to present both sides in an equal manner.

    By constantly bringing up the “controversy” and answering with sort of a “dismissal/excuse” in every case, it seems like a whitewash.


    • Alan F
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

      In Canada we are more than familiar with playing the “victim card” as half of our deck is comprised of them. The rarity above all else in Canadian academia is taking anyone else in academia to task on anything. We’re not so nice as we are unquestioning of those in positions of authority.

      • JAMeech
        Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 3:23 PM | Permalink

        Very astute comment. The average Canadian is far too polite when it comes to controversial subjects such as climate change (global warming), First Nations issues, immigration, and numerous other politically correct situations – in fact – for those of us who do ask questions, we are prejudged as being against something just for having asked to question. The NGOs and numerous bureaucrats have recognized that weakness and so our systems of government and social interaction have been usurped by a small, but vocal minority who use manipulation and obfuscation to drive their vested interest home.

  5. Hector M.
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    I tried to put the following comment at the “Ethics and Science” blog where the Montreal conference is reported, with no success. Some “bad behavior” software blocked me for unknown reasons.
    The problem with the “mistakes” in the IPCC report is not that some accidental mistakes occurred: that was surely inevitable. The problem was that such mistakes as had been brought to light are (1) all in the same direction of amplifying the extent and deleterious effects of climate change, and reducing their uncertainty; and (2) they constituted flagrant violations of IPCC rules, such as use of grey and non peer-reviewed literature, or inserting debatable text at the last minute without telling the reviewers.

    The trick to hide the decline did not consist of deleting some pesky outlier. It arose in one particular context, i.e. validating tree-ring proxies for the period covered with instrumental measurements, in order to give grounds for the use of those proxies in past periods not covered by thermometers. The tree ring data were not “bad data”: they were correct measurements of tree ring width and density. What happened was that tree-rings more or less coincided with thermometers up to 1960, and diverged afterwards. This should indicate that tree-rings are NOT reliable substitutes for thermometers, since they may coincide or diverge from instrumental measurements at different periods and for (as yet) unknown reasons. The result of the trick (hiding the decline by omitting recent tree ring data) was that tree-ring proxies were allowed to be used as “thermometers of the distant past” even if they have failed to be “thermometers of the recent past”. This in turn, plus other maneuvers such as using very few and unreliable trees (bristlecone pines in one particular US area) for parts of the medieval era, and applying very contrived statistical techniques, led to the claim that recent warming was “unprecedented in the last 1000 years”, as reflected in the famous Hockey Stick graph.
    Thus, more than accidental mistakes and legitimate correction of bad data, what one sees is deliberate maneuvering with the data to promote a particular (and apparently preordained) conclusion.
    The FOIA requests, on the other hand, only emerged because of repeated refusal to release data and code for others to verify the correctness of the procedure applied. If such data and code had been archived in the journal in the first place, as mandated by ordinary peer-review protocols, or had been graciously released when requested, no FOIA would had been necessary.

    • Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

      That is an excellently worded comment. It is too bad they didn’t accept it there, but I am glad I got to read it.

    • Wijnand
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

      I think your comment is shown now.

      • Faustino aka Genghis Cunn
        Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 12:19 AM | Permalink

        Hector’s excellent comment appears on Janet Stemwedel’s Adventure blog summary of the conference session; he’s saying here that he was blocked from commenting on the conference site.

        • Faustino aka Genghis Cunn
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 12:22 AM | Permalink

          Or perhaps not, I might have been hasty. I note that when I posted on Janet’s site my post was “awaiting moderation”, perhaps nothing goes on until she’s read it.

  6. Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    Not sure if my comment at the linked site will make it so I’m posting it here too (where it’s probably well known)


    It is important to note that many of the CRU requests were actually EIR rather than FOIA driven. The EIR is specifically for Environmental Information and has a much greater presumption of “openness” because it is felt that it is in the public interest to know everything that governments / government funded bodies discover regarding the environment.

    Moreover what became clear from the emails and the EIR requests was that the CRU simply did not have any proper data archiving process. Given that the UK government in particular has passed laws mandating a reduction in carbon emissions based on the results of the CRU research this sloppiness is, IMO, criminally negligent and the fact that the researchers failed to either provide their data / code or admit that they had lost it far extremely serious. Indeed if it turns out that climate sensitivity to CO2 is rather less than the CRU & co have told us but the UK ends up spending a significant percentage of its GDP on ‘green energy’ then an argument could be made that their behaviour was actually treasonous.

    To jump back a bit, the errors in the IPCC AR4 report were not at the level of typos. They were statements of “fact” that was either totally false (e.g. the himalayan glaciers) or disputed by entirely reputable scientists. moreover they all went in one direction (towards the idea that global warming is occurring and is bad) suggesting that there was considerable bias amongst the editors/lead contributors.

    Finally, one of the things that annoyed me the most about what we learned from the CRU leak was not in the emails so much as in the computer code and particularly the “HARRY_READ_ME” file. The code quality displayed was abysmal and there were none of the standard programming practices such as version control, archiving etc. apparent. It is abundantly clear that the CRU itself cannot reproduce its own results from 5 or 10 years ago because it simply has no idea what exact code/data was used then. It seems to me that this runs counter to one of the basic tenets of science – to whit that experiments must be reproducible.

    • Phil
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

      Re: FrancisT (Nov 10 09:59),

      Version control is a huge issue. Without version control in a field where so much information and methodology is based on computers, one could non-trivially question the scientific relevancy of the whole field. Version control is standard in private industry where there is great reliance on computer stored information and/or methodology. How else to maintain sanity? A proper implementation of version control whenever and wherever needed would seem to be a requirement without which the field will, IMHO, remain wanting.

    • JT
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 8:01 PM | Permalink

      FrancisT and Hector M both make excellent comments, but the thing is … I’ve seen similar comments on many blogs and in blog reports of submissions to inquiries for a year now. The failure of the presenters at the Philosophy of Science Association CRU session to come to grips with these and similar observations is disheartening. It seems as though the presenters either failed to research the subject, or failed to understand the pertinent points, or are doing their best to avoid the issue and to divert attention from the simple question of what is the truth of the matter? I resist being moved to the “its all a watermelon conspiracy to impose crypto-socialism” explanation of this social phenomenon but rejecting that explanation leaves me wondering what is going on in the minds of these people?

  7. John R T
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    could not post at Stemwedel blog..

    ‘… FOIA … does not apply to industry-funded science — which means that the “transparency” available to the public is pretty asymmetrical
    (and that industry scientists are unlikely to have to devote their time to responding to requests from yahoos for their raw data).’
    Asymmetry is precisely what FOIA addresses. The great gap between the bureaucracy and the public. The public pays twice, once as a taxpayer, and then as the subject of the Government. ‘Industry’ suffers for its errors with fines and jail time. The bureaucrat continues drawing from the common weal, regardless the level of incompetence and brazen arrogance.
    I am certain you use ‘yahoo’ as a term of endearment, and that this intimate short-hand was not intended for the wider public, such as visitors from other web-sites. {ClimateAudit offered this opportunity. I am a CA visitor who may be called ‘yahoo,’ in other, less congenial, settings.} Is there an Other term which might more clearly describe the population to which you refer.

    Have your studies prepared you to assign motives? For example, can you describe precisely What? ‘…the requesters intended.’
    I am uncertain whether this was your assessment or the presenter’s re FOI. ‘…“unintended consequences” (in terms of the expenditure of tim {sic} and other resources) on {sic} climate scientists that were precisely what the requesters intended.’

    regards, John

  8. Hector M.
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 10:53 AM | Permalink

    So John R T and I could not post our comments at the linked site, but Francis T’s comment has duly appeared there without any problem. Some glitch in the “Bad Behavior” software, I suppose. I have written to the blogger, Prof Janet Stemwedel of San Jose State University, asking her to fix the problem and insert my comment if possible.

  9. Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    My comment also got a 403 error. I emailed the tech support.
    My comment was:

    Dr Judith Curry at her blog Climate Etc is grappling with the issues raised here, and trying to help create an ‘extended peer community’ containing contributors both supportive and skeptical of the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis.

    Having studied a degree in the History and Philosophy of science myself (Leeds UK 1988) and knowing the kind of peer pressure scientists within specialised areas can be subjected to, I applaud her professional bravery in tackling these thorny issues, and taking considerable heat from disapproving colleagues who don’t want to see the dirty laundry done in public.

    The perspectives from my fellow philosophers of science offer a mature and sophisticated approach from a somewhat more neutral stance. I would like to see more philosophers of science getting involved in the active ‘extended peer community’ on the internet blogs such as Climate Audit, Real Climate and the Air Vent where the issues are being hotly debated.

    • Faustino aka Genghis Cunn
      Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 12:24 AM | Permalink

      tallbloke, your comment appears on Janet’s blog

  10. Dave L.
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

    Naomi Oreskes is a major league proponent of the “scientific consensus in climate change”:

    Click to access ScientificConsensusonclimate.pdf

    It is therefore not surprising that she finds problems with the public for not agreeing with her perspective, as recounted in the summary:

    “The big question Oreskes left us with, then, is how else to frame the need for changes in behavior, so that such a need would not make Americans so defensive that they would reflexively reject the science.”

    In other words, we are not doing a good job of communicating our message to the public. (Where have I heard that before?) I cannot help but feel this reflects an arrogant mentality that assumes the American public is frankly stupid and not capable of understanding scientific concepts.

    Maybe the problem lies with the messengers and how they concocted the substance of their messages.

    • JAMeech
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 3:44 PM | Permalink

      Her methodology in measuring consensus is incredibly weak – a Google search on one term – c’mon, Niomi – who do you think you are kidding?

  11. Hector M.
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 11:15 AM | Permalink

    Now my comment has been entered into the Ethics and Science blog and is awaiting moderation. Do not know what had impeded its going through before.

  12. Russell C
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    Naomi Oreskes sure does appear to be part of the ’96-to-present smear of skeptic scientists, the epicenter of which is the eco-advocacy group Ozone Action. Please see my blog piece, “Circuitous attempts to smear AGW skeptic scientists” http://www.climatechangedispatch.com//editorials/7568-circuitous-attempts-to-smear-agw-skeptic-scientists

    • Mark F
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

      Any coincidence that google shows lots of hits for combinations of “ozone.action” and pew, or fenton communications etc.? Personnel migration for starters. Fascinating. The overall campaign to paint climatologists as victims (Gawd, don’t we have enough classes of victms yet?) and skeptics as evil is consistent across a lot of media. Follow the money.
      The UWO event shows that institution’s vulnerability to any reduction in CAGW panic-funding, watch for more around the world.
      Keep shining light on the roaches, watch them scurry!

      • Russell C
        Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

        “Any coincidence that google shows lots of hits for combinations of “ozone.action” and pew, or fenton communications etc.?”

        No coincidence at all. Ex-Ozone Action personnel Brandon MacGillis & Kymberly Escobar now work at the Pew Environment Group, Kalee Kreider was a senior vice president at Fenton Communications, and the Communications Director at Ozone Action, then moved on to Greenpeace, and now everybody knows her as Al Gore’s spokesperson.

  13. Bernie
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    Just in case mine gets lost.
    Corrections and clarifications, as always are welcome.

    “Many thanks for posting your summary of the presentations. Alas, based on your summaries, I find the presentations incomplete and misleading. A fuller and unbiased understanding of the context and substance of an issue is surely needed before meaningful ethical pronouncement can be made.

    “Francis T makes a number of critical points with which I fully concur – including the atrocious state of CRU’s data archiving and programming.

    “The issue with “hide the decline,” particularly given the context of the emails, is much closer to a significant ethical lapse on the part of Jones and others than suggested in your comments on the presentations. The divergence issue and the deliberate truncating of a long proxy series in 1960 as opposed to 1990 was represented not by a single proxy but by a set of proxies from Briffa. The divergence phenomenon raises serious questions as to the validity of dendrochronologies as paleoclimate proxies. These questions and the validity of the continued use of a number of proxies remain open and unresolved issues.

    “Moreover it is surprising in this summary of the presentations that the reasons for the EIR and FOI requests are not more carefully explained. A reader may be left with the mistaken notion that these requests were not legitimate and were not made by specific individuals who are fully equipped to scientifically and rigorously analyze the results. True there was a concerted effort to pry loose the data and locations of stations around the world by asking for 5 at a time. This was because earlier requests had been declined because of undocumented and still unproduced confidentiality agreements that supposedly restricted the sharing of the data to any groups outside of CRU. Hubris amounts to an ethical lapse and the emails are nothing if not full of hubris.

    “Finally, many of the issues raised by the release of the CRU emails are ongoing. For example, one notable issue is the potential misrepresentation of key results from a study of Urban Heat Island effects in China. This issue led to a separate series of FOI requests by Doug Keenan looking for the location and metadata for a crucial set of Chinese weather stations.

    “While it is reasonable to give the benefit of the doubt to scientists struggling with complex issues, there comes a point when the repeated pattern of behavior suggests that major scientific and ethical questions need to be rigorously addressed.

    “I recommend Steve Mosher book on the emails for a more complete discussion of the ethical issues raised by the behavior of this group of climate scientists and Andrew Montford’s book for more background on the Hockey Stick debate.”

  14. Mac
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    It would appear that Dr Free-Ride has described the followers of Climate Audit as “yahoos”.

    YAHOO (definition): a crude, brutish, or obscenely coarse person.

    That is a new one to add to the skeptical name calling.

    • Russell C
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

      The only reason why skeptical name calling got traction is because the mainstream media accepted it without question, not just within recent years, but for over a decade. That’s why the return of a Republican majority to the US House represents a major opportunity to get to the bottom of all these problems. Rep James Sensenbrenner could investigate the ClimateGate scandal AND why the media and policymakers excluded skeptics for such a long time.

      Please see my article “How an Enviro-Advocacy Group Propped Up Global Warming in the MSM – A Nov 2 Election Connection” http://bigjournalism.com/rcook/2010/11/02/how-an-enviro-advocacy-group-propped-up-global-warming-in-the-msm-a-nov-2-election-connection/

      • Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Permalink

        Yeah, but will Boehner learn how to pronounce his own name?

        • Russell C
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 12:01 AM | Permalink

          I believe the actual German spelling would have an umlauted “o” instead of “oe”, and the pronunciation isn’t too wonderful.

          As long as he delegates real work to the new chairmen, he will be just fine. I believe Darrell Issa would become chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I’d think Issa could be counted on to look at our Environmental Protection Agency’s handling of the AGW issue, and perhaps whether our Science Czar John Holdren’s past interferes with his current position – I have some of that covered in my article “The Curious History of ‘Global Climate Disruption'” http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/10/the_curious_history_of_global.html

        • Alexej Buergin
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 4:07 AM | Permalink

          The 2 points on top of the o-Umlaut (Öö, as well as Ää and Üü) used to be an e, so oe and ö are one and the same. Keyboards in different countries usually have the local special signs, but when using the rudimentary US-keyboard writing oe is a matter of convenience, and was even more so in the time of the typewriter.
          There is not one correct way of pronouncing a name in English, as Joule and Home would testify.

        • Cementafriend
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 6:06 AM | Permalink

          I would think the correct way of pronouncing Boehner would Burr-ner with Burr like a burr under the saddle. I would suggest your name (Buergin) in German would be said Boor-gin with the first part Boo like booing the opposition football team but the Dutch (going by your first name)pronounciation would be slightly different.
          With a his name James Sensenbrenner (scythe burner?) could be a dangerous person.

        • Alexej Buergin
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 7:32 AM | Permalink

          No, my ue is originally an ü (due to family history), and it is usually spelled that way (ue) by the Buergins in the US (alternative: Bergin).
          There is no English sound like ü, as there is no German sound exactely like the schwa (in “love”). Boehner in German could sound similar (more open) to bird; but it would depend on the part of the german speaking countries (as love sounds very different said by a yorkshireman).

        • kim
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

          Hold your mouth as if to say ‘oooo’, but say ‘eeee’.

        • kim
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

          er, for umlaut ‘u’.

        • Russell C
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 12:29 PM | Permalink

          I can see it now, our hockey stick friends will say ClimateAudit has degenerated into lessons on foreign language phonetics. But are they above associating skeptic scientists with the big coal/oil accusation? Nope. Michael Mann reviewed the book I described in my comment further above about Oreskes’ ‘circuitous attempt to smear AGW skeptics’, “Ross Gelbspan.. has set the standard for investigative reporting when it comes to the climate change denial campaign”. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/climate-cover-up-a-brief-review/

          And in the ClimateGate emails themselves, Mann said this in response to a person referring to Sherwood & Craig Idso, “An objective reading of our manuscript would readily reveal that the comments you refer to are scurrilous. These comments have not been made by scientists in the peer-reviewed literature, but rather, on a website that, according to published accounts, is run by individuals sponsored by ExxonMobile corportation, hardly an objective source of information.” (misspellings are Mann’s) http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=365&filename=1065206624.txt

    • Redbone
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

      This is the stereotypical liberal vs. conservative propoganda, as defined by the liberals. Liberals are always portrayed as educated, enlightened. Conservatives are always portrayed as rural, uneducated, hicks. Thus the frequently observed line that climate science is just too complex for the average person to understand.

      I use the moniker Redbone to get these prejudices out in the open right away. At one time I actually had the real McCoy. Try walking a Rebone Coonhound in Palm Springs. The reaction of people who ask “What kind of dog is that?” is amusing, much like I had just said a vulgar word. Then you and the dog are immediately dismissed as yahoos.

  15. geoff Chambers
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

    I studied philosophy of science long ago, and I don’t recognise anything in the summaries of papers which deserves that name. They all seem to be about problems of science management, how to wed science to policy etc. Certainly philosophers should get involved in the discussion, but not in order to express opinions about how far to go in publishing data. These are policy questions.
    The big philosophical hole in climate science is the gap between the findings and the moral prescriptions which are seen to follow from them. Oreskes seemed to be trying to plug the gap with her mention of intergenerational equity etc. Her analysis would have been torn to shreds by any decent philosopher. No, not torn to shreds, but stripped down to reveal its hidden assumptions.

    • DEEBEE
      Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 6:46 AM | Permalink

      Geoff, you are just a consensus busting yahoo 🙂

  16. TAG
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    from the notes:

    Parker discussed the ways that FOIA seems to demand an openness that doesn’t quite fit with the career reward structures currently operating within science. Yet ClimateGate and its aftermath, and the heightened public scrutiny of, and demands for openness from, climate scientists in particular, seem to be driving (or at least putting significant pressure upon) the standards for data and code sharing in climate science.

    I got to ask one of the questions right after Parker’s talk. I wondered whether the level of public scrutiny on climate scientists might be enough to drive them into the arms of the “open science” camp — which would, of course, require some serious rethinking of the scientific reward structures and the valorization of competition over cooperation. As we’ve discussed on this blog on many occasions, institutional and cultural change is hard. If openness from climate scientists is important enough to the public, though, could the public decide that it’s worthwhile to put up the resources necessary to support this kind of change in climate science?

    The IPCC has been set up to summarize the current state of climate science can make it available in a useful format to policy makers. Inherent in this decision is the use of climate science as it is commonly practiced. The notes indicate that the current practice is one that entails the “and the valorization of competition over cooperation” and enforces this by means of “the scientific reward structures”. The lack of openness in the releasing of data follows from this. There is no benefit to a researcher in sharing his/her data beyond that which will provide him/her with career credit such as citations. They will do everything possible to resist FOIs since these FOIs take from them the scientific currency which they can use to gain career rewards.

    As the notes point out, this is science as it is practiced. One issue that we must address is whether or not such a system is suitable for an issue of such pressing concern as AGW. As an example, why should data vital to the analysis of AGW science be held as the personal property of one researcher? Why should that one researcher be able to reward or punish other researchers by the sharing or withholding of data. Why are lawyers involved int eh sharing of data that could be vital to our civilization.

    The problem isn’t the scientists. They are merely following their own self-interest. As Mr. Gavin Schmidtt indicates they are not saints nor are they Mother Theresa. They are small businessmen whose businesses depend on their success within the scientific reward structure. The creation of cliques, in-groups, teams and leagues is a natural outcome of this structure. The problem is the structure of the IPCC. The IPCC should not be a creature that is dominated by the interests of individual researchers. It should, be an organized body that guides and directs research and enforces policies on how the results of that research, including data, are disseminated.

    The problem is how the IPCC is organized and constituted. Until that is changed, these problems will persist and that creates a danger to us all.

    • Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

      It also severely slows down the scientific process. It’s like every climate scientist is claiming to have solved Fermat’s theorem, and hiding the math.

      • rwnj
        Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 7:44 AM | Permalink

        Seems to me that the climate “scientists” have gotten away with their shenanigans precisely because they are cooperating and not competing.

  17. Hector M.
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    Russell C and Redbone: The common US and UK association of “liberals” with eco causes such as AGW, and “conservatives” with the opposite, is not necessarily so in other countries. In Latin America, for instance, progressive people and the Left have consistently resisted pressure to reduce economic growth in the name of conservation of Nature or avoidance of carbon emissions (notably in Brazil), although they have also supported action against unlawful deforestation of the Amazon (which is now minimal thanks to stricter regulations). Same happens with the Communist Party of China, a major contrarian force regarding limitation of emissions, and a strong supporter of the massive use of coal-fed power plants to support growth of China’s electricity grid. On the other hand many pretty conservative people in the Third World are enamored with the environment, and strongly support action to preserve pristine Nature. Left wing groups in Chile have been strongly opposing the attempt of a wealthy American investor, who enjoyed support from conservatives to purchase a large tract of virgin land for conservation purposes. The left wing Argentine President last year vetoed a Congressional act intended to protect glaciers, allegedly because it would hurt powerful mining interests allied to (moderate or leftist) provincial governments (the law was passed afterwards in a weaker version). Other examples abound.

    My interest in CA has always been with the science, and the fact that bad science may be promoted by one political party or another is not of the essence, although of course any political interference with science is likely to be harmful.

    • Redbone
      Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

      Point taken. From what I’ve casually observed, Steve has been remarkably neutral on policy, sticking mostly to specific lines of reasoning applied to AGW. Today’s post, however, seems more oriented to policy, and I chose to use it to highlight some of my thoughts on AGW policy and how it relates to politics.

  18. Hoi Polloi
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

    “Don’t underestimate the predictability of stupidity”.

  19. Bob
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if Wendy Parker has ever submitted and NDA to the FDA or EMEA. To state that private science is not subject the outside scrutiny (the equivalent intent in FOIA) is simply naive. When a million page NDA is submitted to the agencies, 100-200 people descend on the data for an average of 2-3 years.

  20. JAMeech
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 3:37 PM | Permalink

    Freedom (and democracy) carries with it an obligation to speak out and question decisions with a goal to finding the collective truth. There is unlikely to be a single defining truth in most controversies, particularly when the agenda may be hidden or confused with vested interests that lie deep within the dialog.

    If members of a group do not speak up, the society in question will eventually succumb to the lowest common denominator or to the loudest and shrillest among the group. The common values of a society need to be examined first in order to accept on face value what an “expert” may say on any particular subject matter and even then the “expert” still might be inaccurate.

    In speaking up and expressing our opinions and thoughts, we must be prepared to be found lacking in our thoughts and able to accept that we were wrong in what we said. Sometimes not speaking up derives from a fear of being found out – being wrong or – having values that are unacceptable to the society.

    What I find outstanding here at CA is that most contributors are unafraid to be found wrong – in fact they want to encourage a discussion that aims at increasing our collective understanding in an open and transparent way.

  21. Ron Cram
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

    I posted on Dr. Stemwedel’s blog as below. I expect it will show up after it goes through moderation. I am sorry I forgot to thank her for reporting on this conference. It was an interesting read. Here’s my comment.

    Dr. Stemwedel,

    I am afraid some have latched on to the use of the term “yahoos” above and understood it to be your description of skeptics. Perhaps I am wrong, but my reading is you are quoting the speakers at the conference as using that term. I hope I am correct and you choose to set the record straight.

    I understand you are still thinking through the issues before you write your own assessment. I congratulate you for taking the time to think this through. I hope you will consider the policies of the funding agencies and the journal policies which require data archiving and data sharing. These policies were completely ignored by climate scientists at CRU.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_data_archiving and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_sharing for specific policies of NSF, Science, Nature, etc.

    Science is supposed to be self-correcting, but if data, methods and code are not archived as required, people cannot find the mistakes necessary for science to make corrections.

  22. Paul Penrose
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

    I also got the 403 error, so here’s my comment:
    I think the discussion on transparency in science is an important one, however it is a little more nuanced than presented. Certainly it is important to consider the public financing aspect, however even more important is the public policy impacts. I think we can all agree that when research results are used to justify an almost complete restructuring of our entire civilization (which is what the AGW end-game is), then utter transparency is required. Not everybody will understand all the details and some will certainly dispute the conclusions, but the only way a full debate can occur is if all the cards are laid on the table. And when the public is being asked to go “all in”, this debate is absolutely necessary. There is simply too much at stake to just trust a small group of scientists. If everything really is above board, then the majority of the public will eventually be convinced. This will not be a quick process, but the big important decisions never are, and probably shouldn’t be.

  23. Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 5:31 PM | Permalink

    On the subject of purveying “the truth.”

    I remember an incident on a bussiness trip abroad. A government official of the tree-hugging kind, had shown us a tiny tiny forest in her country (hint: county domain is .ch). After the guided tour, on the subject of relations between the governmental forest management and land owners, she had an absolutely magnificent statement:
    “I see that we in the government have to learn, just as do the landowners. We have to learn to tell them the truth in a better way, and they have get better at accepting that we are right.”

    :D… In many ways this is the same with climatology and the AGW (adulterated glo… ehh.. but i digress) alarmists. The have absolutely NO doubt in their minds about whether they are correct or not.

  24. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 7:07 PM | Permalink

    Before there can be meaningful discussion on the philosophy of a particular science, it must be established that the science is of adequate standard. The standard can be estimated by independent audit. It should be estimated by audit. It is fails persistently, it should not be named as a “science”.

    The summarised discussion of the conference appear to miss the point that the past standard of climate science was poor enough to attract audit and comment. Those climate scientists who object to independent quality audit have the clear choice of departing from the community of scientists who are concerned with high standards.

    The conference summary appears to promote that climate scientists are “victims”, when in reality they were people who underwent audits, not always with a pass. Some of them had the audacity to denigrate auditors with credentials exceeing theirs. By this act alone, they show that they are not acting as a normal part of the wider science community (or even of the general community, where performance-based advancement is usual).

    • Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Sherrington (Nov 10 19:07),

      Before there can be meaningful discussion on the philosophy of a particular science, it must be established that the science is of adequate standard.

      thanks Geoff. You nail exactly why I was totally nonplussed with this”symposium” and article about it, that just did not compute, did not address anything useful or comprehensible to me – although the comments threads did.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

        Thanks, Lucy. There is informal competition between science disciplines, usually to satisfy a thirst for recognition of intellectual superiority. Sometimes, like with the human genome project, one will become sexy as molecular biology did, before another takes over.

        When a youngster sub-discipline appears, it likes to find a place in the pecking order. To my old-fashioned mind, it gets its medals from good scientific performance. A lot of climate science seems to have attempted a rapid rise “look at me” through infiltration of devotees into offices of influence, hiring of PR firms and politicians, beating on the precautionary principle drum, etc – thus diverting energy that could have been used to try for top science.

        Unfortunately, the tricks can be seen from afar.

  25. Paul-in-CT
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

    Steve, those quotes are priceless. They remind me of when I was a junior attorney at a local law firm. We used to have a “quarterly dinner” (usually held annually…) where one of the partners would suggest a mock “program” featuring some of the more senior lawyers making presentations within their expertise, but absurdly.

    Your post reminded me of one by an environmental lawyer, who usually ended up working for industrial clients, presenting on Asbestos:

    “Fire Retardant Toxins: A Balanced Assessment.”

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 3:47 AM | Permalink

      Paul-in-CT If you did a rough estimate of the lives saved by asbestos versus those lost via the largely unquestioned cancers it has caused, you could well find that asbestos has made a significantly positive contribution to the human condition. For example, its use in lagging pipes in marine engines has given economies of fuel use and better naval performance. Its use in fire fighting clothing has enhanced rescues. etc.

      I mention this because I’m on a programme of correcting the bashing of chemicals, especially man-made chemicals, with the trendy rise in concepts like “organic gardening” and “organic and PETA-verified cosmetics”. For the latter, in case of disbelief, see http://ecosalon.com/11_toxic_cosmetic_ingredients_you_must_avoid/ and the blog comment “Author: Scott Mitchell
      This was a great article! However, I would have also considered adding ammonia to the list. In my opinion, Organic Salon Systems has the safest, most natural, and organic products available. They are certified by PETA for being cruelty-free and organic and also contain certified organic ingredients by the United Kingdom Soil Association.”

      Now, where were we about Philosophy of Science?

      • kim
        Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 8:34 AM | Permalink

        snip – no discussion of asbestos please

      • Paul-in-CT
        Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

        Geoff, thanks very much for your reply. I see we are OT here so I’ll just say that I couldn’t agree more on organic gardening, etc. – the inputs used to create the “organic” fertilizers never seem to get noticed…

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

          Yep, Paul, I did not wish to infer we were at odds. I’m reminded by your conference story of a politician who introduced me before a lecture, saying “Sherrington is a realy mean person. He’s so mean that he would demand a bacteria count on the Milk of Human Kindness.”

  26. JRR Canada
    Posted Nov 10, 2010 at 9:54 PM | Permalink

    Philosphy of science? That would be as described by Richard Feynman wrt cargo cult science?Or the once taught scientific method? Canadian acedemics exist in a bubble and the forth coming shrinkage of govt moneys will introduce many of them to those magic words,”Get a Job”.

  27. Jim Turner
    Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

    The second poster on the linked Scientopia article makes what I take to be a support of ‘post-normal science’.
    Apparently, Mendel ignored all the data that did not support his hypothesis of inheritance and thus was able to demonstrate the correctness of his hypothesis! Except of course he did no such thing; his hypothesis may have been correct, but using false/manipulated data could never confirm or refute it. The suggestion that Mendel’s ‘trick’ proved beneficial to the ultimate understanding of genetic inheritance rests entirely on the fortunate fact that the initial hypothesis was correct, but he had no legitimate way of knowing that at the time, had he been wrong he would now be known as a fraud and a charlatan. The implication is that climate science is in the same position now, and it is necessary to be selective with confusing data so as to eliminate that which obscures the truth. I think the police have been known to use similar methods in the past; intuitively knowing who the guilty party is, then being ‘creative’ with presenting evidence to arrive at the correct verdict. Unfortunately, a few innocent men have been hanged in the process.

  28. Posted Nov 11, 2010 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

    Shrader-Frechette is trying to find some excuses for tricks to hide the decline. This is unbelievable.

    Her rhetorical switch consists of implying that is ok to throw away proxy data – because they are not ‘real temperatures’ – which are more inviolate hard measurements.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

      It is quite amusing to note that Schrader-Frechette is vehemently opposed to the mainstream view amongst scientists involved in things nuclear but apparently has no problem in accepting the so-called ‘consensus’ in climate change.

  29. Geoff
    Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 1:45 AM | Permalink

    More reviews are forthcoming. At the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity in Singapore in July, there was a session on “Integrity in the Climate-Change Debate” (see https://www.wcri2010.org/programme.asp about half way down). I could not attend but a paper based on the conference presentations is planned to be issued.

    The first speaker, Dr. Henderson-Sellers was formerly the Director of the World Climate Research Programme based in Geneva at the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization. Her comments a couple of years back on What the IPCC Lead Authors Really Think (http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/an-essay-the-ipcc-report-what-the-lead-authors-really-think/ ) shows openness to uncertainty.

    Notwithstanding the results of the official whitewash investigations, anyone reading the Climategate e-mails can see scientists behaving badly. I judge many in the “scientific establishment” are well aware of the implications.

  30. Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    “An account of an experiment or observation should give the reader all the information required to carry out exactly the same procedure and observe the same outcome [82]. This is clearly a severe constraint on the type of knowledge considered acceptable to science. As every scientist knows, this regulative principle both limits and empowers the concept of an empirical scientific ‘fact’.” – Real Science, What It Is and What It Means, J. Ziman

    “Science is empirical. Knowing the answer means nothing. Testing your knowledge means everything.” – Lawrence Krauss, Physicist

    It is very clear from the above that the principles of science are not being followed by many in the climate science field.

    Providing others – any others – with the information they need to reproduce and validate or refute your experiment or analysis is crucial in science. Somehow there are too many scientists keeping things secretive and to themselves or tightly within their “science community”. Something is amiss with their lack of adherence to the philosophy of science.

    “To whom ought the materials to be made available? Other members of one’s scientific community seems like a good bet, but how about members of the public at large?” – Dr. Janet D. Stemwedel, Associate Professor of Philosophy at San Jose State University

    Yes, the public at large via web sites is a great start.

    “What exactly do we imagine ought to be made available? Research methods? Raw and/or processed data? Computer code? Lab notebooks? E-mail correspondence?” – Dr. Janet D. Stemwedel

    Yes, anything and everything relevant to the scientific claims being made by the scientists involved and any of their colleagues involved in their relevant research in support of those claims.

    When funded by the public all the information belongs to the public. Hand it over. Please. Thank you.

    Anything less and the people involved are not following the philosophy of science, they’re doing something else but it’s not science.

  31. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

    The author of these notes opined on climategate last year here, citing RC and their support blogs.

    • kim
      Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Permalink

      Well, she was dead wrong on the most iconic phrase from the emails, the ‘trick’ to ‘hide the decline’, but she isn’t as happy about excusing away the behaviour as some of her sources.

  32. sky
    Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

    What marks Orestes’ didactic presentations in any forum (and I’ve seen them several times) is her incessant “attitude-mangement” approach to issues that call for insightful logical analysis. She is no philosopher, but a polemicist in the tradition of Lenin.

  33. jdp
    Posted Nov 12, 2010 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

    Quote from the “Bad Science” website


    “People often ask if there are short cuts in spotting nonsense. In reality, it’s not easy to do in a checklist, because there are so many elaborate ways to distort evidence, but for me there is one very clear risk factor. The entirety of science is built on transparency, giving your evidence, and engaging with legitimate criticism. If you hear of a company refusing to hand over the evidence they say supports their claims, whether they are a drug company or some dismal cosmetics firm, all you know is that you are being deprived of information, and that vital parts of the picture are missing.”

  34. imarcus
    Posted Nov 13, 2010 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    I posted this slighly different slant on the symposium and the Stemedel highlights on Dr Free-ride website.

    “The big question Oreskes left us with, then, is how else to frame the need for changes in behavior, so that such a need would not make Americans so defensive that they would reflexively reject the science. I’m not sure the session ended with a clear answer to that question.”
    The change that Oreskes and the IPCC call for is not so much a minor kink in behaviour, it is a fundamental change in economic direction, so in order to be taken seriously the Oreskes and IPCC ‘science’ needs to be VERY plausible and THOROUGHLY tested.
    When probed the IPCC flagship icon for demonstrating humanity is collectively to blame for the global warming problem because the current rate of increase and the current level of warming are unprecedented, viz. The Hockey Stick, it turns out to be UNRELIABLE.
    The proxies are poor [divergence problem], the proxies do not pass statistical correlation tests, and the graphic totally skewed by inappropriate principal component statistical analysis, and on top of that, the Climategate releases show that the graph was deliberately skewed that way by the IPCC for maximum effect. AND what is more the checking of this piece of junk science could only be done when the raw data and methodology were patiently screwed out of the ‘scientists’ concerned after a great deal of resistance by them. A totally unscientific approach by the IPCC.
    The question remains, just how much of the IPCC science can be relied on? Just how much has been validated?
    Is it little wonder that the recent Scientific American survey reported some 75% of respondees thought that anthropogenic activity was NOT the prime cause of global warming.
    This is not “reflexive rejection of the science” described by Oreskes, it is the very correct scientific approach of scepticism – all ‘new science’ has to properly tested by probing and replication, and that ‘science’ that can’t be substantiated gets dumped. Waffling on about intellectual property is just that – waffle!

  35. Posted Nov 18, 2010 at 12:22 AM | Permalink

    Almost all of philosophy of science got taken over by the postmodern part of the academy a long time ago, but there are still some analytic scholars around trying to keep people honest. If you want to read a good critical collection of papers on the state of the field, I recommend this:


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