Liars for Gaia

We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.
– Phil Jones, Hadley Climate Research Unit

That’s Phil Jones, of Climategate fame demonstrating that openness to skeptical inquiry that so differentiates science and reason from the closed, insular world of obscurantism and fear of the cleansing light of day that is the hallmark of the religious darkness that inspired such fearers of the intellect as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

As with soulmate Peter Gleick, who committed theft and forgery, we are instructed that he does this “for the greater good” (People may recall a little discussion about lying “for the greater good” last year in which I maintained that it is not the case that lying for Gaia is bad while lying for Jesus is good and instead insist on the Catechism’s teaching that lying is bad. Period.)

Now, in the latest “Shut up!’ he explained” moment from the faith-based climate change community somebody calls for “denialists” (read: “heretics”) to be “tracked” and their houses to be allowed to burn (you know, if they should somehow, for some reason or other, just spontaneously catch fire for some unknown reason). This is of a piece with previous pleas to “suspend democracy” (but of course only until the present crisis is past, as in 1933). Also from the totalitarian playbook comes the call to treat heretics for “mental illness” and to label them as akin to racists.

Do other scientists do this? Are there pleas to suspend democracy or label those who question Dark Matter theory as mentally ill or racist?

I hasten to add that I am not a scientist. Some form of global warming may be occurring. I presume the temperature goes up and down all the time. Change is what climate *does*. What I’m noting is not the science, but the (quite obvious) religion that is at work here: including the increasingly brittle actions of the priesthood as it fails to compel the faithful to adhere to orthodoxy. This appears to get tougher as the data comes in that Arctic and Himalayan ice is thickening, and polar bears and penguins are popping out the pups like Pez dispensers. Also, the oceans stubbornly continue to not rise

and the Day After Tomorrow stubbornly refuses to arrive.

I know religion, not science. These guys act like leaders of a religion, not like scientists. Only with Catholic religion, nothing the faith proposes is actually contrary to the data science analyzes, while this particular religion is frequently contradicted by the facts–and it responds not by developing doctrine as Catholic faith does, but by demanding the houses of unbelievers burn to the ground.

Memo to Climate Change Magisteria: We Catholics tried that method of coping with realities not to our liking several centuries ago. Didn’t work. Since you seem bent on creating a religion, why not take a tip from one that’s been around the block and learn from our mistakes. Jim Lovelock seems capable of doing it. So can you.

  • http://decentfilms.com SDG

    “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”
    Wow. That may be the most stunning repudiation of the scientific method from a scientist I’ve read—ever. Science is all about trying to find something wrong with the data. Even if you believe your opponents are arguing in bad faith, the way to defend good science is never to refuse to make the data available—especially not because you’re “invested” in your work and don’t want to see it cross-examined. Let the skeptics and nay-sayers try to rip it apart, however good or bad their motives and arguments may be—and let their opponents try to rip apart the critique. Truth will out. That’s how science works.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      I’m afraid you’re begging the question here, which is: Is the specific request for data a legitimate scientific request?

      Science is not about trying to find something wrong with the data. Science is about trying to find the causes of things. So it doesn’t follow that the request is scientifically legitimate if its purpose is to find something wrong with the data.

      And even then, a scientist is not categorically obligated, qua scientist, to provide every piece of data another scientist asks for.

      Attempts to use quotations like this to prove Jones & Co. aren’t true scientists remind me of attempts to use, say, “Call no man father,” to prove Catholics aren’t true Christians. People who know religion know there’s more to the practice of Catholicism than is taught in 4th grade CCD. There is also more to the practice of science than is taught in 4th grade science.

      • Noah D

        Who determines what a ‘scientifically legitimate’ request is? If his theory is so strong (settled, even!), shouldn’t it withstand the attentions of the ‘scientifically illegitimate’ quite easily?

        If modern science is about openness and skepticism, why would there be any refusal to share any data? Would not the entire endeavor depend on providing just that, sharing and examining everything? In what other discipline could a scientist refuse to reveal his underlying data, and still claim legitimacy?

        • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

          “Who determines what a ‘scientifically legitimate’ request is?”

          Scientists, typically. Who do you think ought to?

          “If modern science is about openness and skepticism, why would there be any refusal to share any data?”

          This is the sort of thing I meant in writing about what’s taught in 4th grade science. Scientists generally have work to do, on the same plane of existence as the rest of us, and as a class are no happier than anyone else to waste their time.

          One might analogously ask, if Catholicism is compatible with reason, why would there be any refusal to debate the existence of God with NotASheep13 in the comment section of a washingtonpost.com article?

          • Noah D

            “Who determines what a ‘scientifically legitimate’ request is?”
            Scientists, typically.

            That’s a nice, closed circle. Do you not see the problem here?

            “If modern science is about openness and skepticism, why would there be any refusal to share any data?”

            This is the sort of thing I meant in writing about what’s taught in 4th grade science. Scientists generally have work to do, on the same plane of existence as the rest of us, and as a class are no happier than anyone else to waste their time.

            So, openness and skepticism are hallmarks of a ’4th grade’ science education? Good to know.

            As for the response of other people to another commenter on another website, I’ve no idea.

      • Dale Price

        Except that Jones and company are using closely-held scientific data to advance political goals and to exclude opposing viewpoints from scientific journals. Moreover, Jones and company are, if I recall correctly, funded by British taxpayers (as Mann at PSU is funded by American taxpayers). There is thus a certain responsibility to do one’s work in the sunshine, so to speak.

        • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

          Right, there are several questions at play. I was addressing the question, is it a stunning repudiation of the scientific method to tell someone who asks for your data to go pound salt?

          It may well be that the request for data was, say, politically or socially legitimate, and on such a basis should have been granted. It may even be that the request was scientifically legitimate, and Jones misjudged or lied about it.

          But only a very naive concept of scientific activity holds that, if any scientist anywhere gets any request for any data he has, he is somehow bound by the scientific method to grant the request.

          • Noah D

            is it a stunning repudiation of the scientific method to tell someone who asks for your data to go pound salt?

            No, but it is a stunning repudiation of one’s personal integrity, given Jones’ own words.

            if any scientist anywhere gets any request for any data he has, he is somehow bound by the scientific method to grant the request.

            And that’s not what anyone here is asking for.

          • Noah D

            Hm. I should have said ‘scientific integrity’, not ‘personal’.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Tycho Brahe kept his new astronomical data secret. His crew could only work from the originals and could not make copies to take away. When Niklaus Baer, the Imperial Mathematician, came up with a rival astronomical model, Tycho accused him of plagiarizing his data — Baer had visited Tycho shortly before — and a feud developed. The data continued to be closely held until Tycho’s former employee, Kepler, became Imperial Mathematician (succeeding Tycho, who had succeeded Baer) and used his new position to negotiate better access. Tycho’s data was so good — precision to the width of a quarter seen from a football field away — that Kepler found an ellipse in the data for Mars (which Copernicus had messed up badly). He would never have found an ellipse working with the older Alfonsine Tables, which had been corrupted by centuries of copyist errors prior to the advent of printing. (Copernicus and the Ptolemaics both relied on these Tables, which is why neither system was entirely adequate.)

      Just so’s ya know: holding the data secret is an old game practiced by some estimable scientists.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        But does the fact that it’s an old game make it a good idea? Science is about getting at the truth, and hiding data is perceived as being afraid of scrutiny. Just because Tycho was right in his work does not mean that other scientists are so scrupulous (and it assumes that they make no mistakes).

        It takes radical incuriosity to not at least wonder what he’s hiding in the numbers. If his work is good, scrutiny will bear that out.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          I thought peer review was an important part of the whole scientific process. Why else do they have scientific journals?

        • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

          “It takes radical incuriosity to not at least wonder what he’s hiding in the numbers.”

          There you’ve presumed ill will on his part.

          If you refuse to answer an impertinent personal question, would I be radically incurious to not at least wonder what you’re hiding?

          • http://www.communionantiphons.org Andy, Bad Person

            Scientific data are not personal questions.

            • http://www.communionantiphons.org Andy, Bad Person

              Let me clarify. If you were inquiring about some experiments I’ve conducted in my basement lab, I don’t think it would be necessary to answer that. However, Jones’ research is being used to enact sweeping policy changes around the world. Shouldn’t we at least take a look at the numbers? It has nothing to do with assuming ill will; it has everything to do with getting the facts straight before we make a move.

              • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

                “Shouldn’t we at least take a look at the numbers?”

                “We”? I haven’t touched any actual weather measurements since I processed some lightning strike data back in the mid-80s, and my classwork in numerical weather prediction is almost as old.

                • http://www.communionantiphons.org Andy, Bad Person

                  You know darn well what I mean.

                  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

                    I know that by “we” you mean “some set of people among us, on our behalf.” But of course, some set of people among us, on our behalf, have looked at the numbers, so you must mean some other set of people. The point of my response is that, unless you say how you would select that other set of people, I can’t say whether I agree with you that they should look at the numbers.

                • Matthew

                  Tom:
                  Talk about arguing in bad faith!!!! You don’t even seem to be able to ge past the standard conventions of the English language.
                  Will you be joining some fundamentalist sect soon since this seems to be how you read things?
                  Matthew

                  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

                    Matthew:

                    Andy’s use of a standard convention of the English language produced an equivocation at precisely the point of dispute: Who has a legitimate right to see Jones’s data? “We do” does not answer that question.

                    • Andy, Bad Person

                      Fair enough. I had to look up the source of the quote; it’s not actually in any of Mark’s links. Here’s fair recap of the whole incident:

                      http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/08/mcintyre_versus_jones_climate_1.html

                      I’m with you in that I don’t know much about the science behind this and have no way of evaluating the qualifications of someone asking for the data. Jones’ quote, though doesn’t address the qualifications of the person making the request. He has a problem with anyone challenging his data.

                      I’m sure much more ink has been spilled about this in the intervening years (it happened in 2009). From what I can tell, the data has been released even to the Great Unwashed. If the data is “out there,” I’m still confident that the truth will be discerned and junk science, motivated or not, on whichever side of the debate, will be examined and outed as such.

                • Ted Seeber

                  Really? If your theories aren’t tied to actual data, where do they come from?

                  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

                    Are you under the impression that I’ve formed theories about lightning strikes in the last 25 years?

  • Michael O.

    I’m personally an agnostic on Climate Change or whatever, but Infowars is not exactly a reliable site, unless you’re a total conspiracy theorist.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    “Memo to Climate Change Magisteria: We Catholics tried that method of coping with realities not to our liking several centuries ago. Didn’t work. Since you seem bent on creating a religion, why not take a top from one that’s been around the block and learn from our mistakes.”

    Excellent point—and that’s coming from a climate change believer (lukewarm, not evangelical, kind of low-church Episcopalian equivalent). Bad science abounds everywhere, every day, on every side of every question. Any effort to weed it out and to apply the disinfectant of sunlight (whether or not that sunlight is misbehaving) is good for Gaia, God love her.

  • Paulus

    Showing two pictures of La Jolla cove taken a hundred years apart like this doesn’t help your argument. The ocean rise in this span of time is measured in inches whereas tides are measured in feet.

    • MClark

      I thought that was La Jolla! Cool. And of course if the two pictures aren’t matched exactly with respect to tides, it doesn’t matter what the pictures show.

    • Ted Seeber

      The example that convinced me was Mazamas Mountain Climbing Club logbook of climbing Mt Hood. It’s been a popular past time in the region for several thousand years, and the Mazamas have been keeping accurate records since the 1890s.

      Due to the nature of this mountain, there are very narrow windows in the fall and the spring that the mountain is safe to climb. Winter time you’ve got to look out for the weather, of course, and summer time the glaciers melt out of the rocks and create unstable landslides.

      There was a time that the spring climbing season lasted well into July and the fall climbing season lasted well into December, back in the early 1900s. It’s easy to see over the decades from reading those log books that the safe climbing season has been shrinking since the 1940s. Today, you’ll find few Mazamas willing to schedule a spring trip past April or a fall trip past October. And I don’t remember any year within my lifetime where somebody who ignore those rules didn’t lose their life on the mountain.

  • Eric Bohn

    Still haven’t checked out what the USCCB has to say in the matter have you Mark? Just where are you getting your data anyway?

  • http://www.likelierthings.com Jon W

    Scientists are discovering what the church always knew: the Enlightenment was bullsh*t. The complex truths of large naturalistic and/or human systems aren’t something obviously discernible to the individual intellect but require a loyal community with a tradition and extra-rationalistic means of punishing/redirecting those who are willfully ignorant or mistaken.

  • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

    I’ve thought over Jim Lovelock’s statement. Did he exaggerate the tempo and consequences of climate change? I have no independent idea. But over the years I have been following from time to time the observations of field biologists, which seem to confirm the projections of climate scientists. Geophysical measurements, like the extent of arctic ice cap cover, its duration and thickness, also confirm.
    Planetary climate is obviously very complex and not easily quantifiable affair.
    Neither I nor anyone I know belongs to a climate cult. Certainly the Holy Father does not, and yet he is seriously concerned.
    Mark, please check the objectivity of all of your sources.

  • Paulus

    Running a quick Google search shows the Jones quote back in 2009. It would also appear that the raw data is indeed available to all:

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/

    • Linebyline

      This is a good point. It ties in with what Tom K. said above about how scientists ought not to have to respond to every request for data from every Tom, Dick, and Harry that asks. That only applies if the data are available somewhere already, but in this case, they are.

      The problem is that Jones didn’t say, “Go look it up yourself.” He asked why he should bother sharing data with someone whose intent was to find something wrong with those data. It’s not so much his research (about which I know nothing, but I will know a tiny bit once I read that link) that bothers me. It’s the implication (intended or not) that if you’re looking for problems in a data set, you shouldn’t be given access to that data set.

  • Ted Seeber

    BTW, I and several others attracted to the libertarian idea of seafaring would *love* to get our hands on *clear sovereign title* to submerged properties that were only a few feet below the waves at low tide. Such land is prime building territory.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    Complex thing, climate change, made more complex because of the stakes involved. I would suggest that is a good reason if any for scientists to come clean about everything there is. If someone says they are in the process of inventing a new widget that will help us make toast easier, by all means, keep it to yourself. But if someone lending support to an argument that is saying the world is going to burn because, among other reasons, there are too many people on the planet, and we have to let the powers that be get involved and regulate, regulate and control, then I want to see as many cards as possible on the table. Or at least, I want to know the cards are being looked at publically.

    • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

      The powers that be are going to regulate and control, climate change or no climate change.
      I have yet to see a refutation of the concept of greenhouse gases. Atmospheric carbon loading etc. is not neutral, although there are obviously factors dependent on complex interactions.
      I believe the Holy Father is rightly concerned that if the effects of climate change do take hold, the poorest people on this planet will be the least protected from them.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        Oh it’s not that I’m not concerned. But I am skeptical, if for no other reason than I was raised after the age of Baby Boomer skepticism. Of course there is probably truth behind some of it. And I would be willing to see things through, were it not for the hysteria and emphasis on ‘too many people here’ reasoning behind it all. Will the regulations always be there? Sure. But the idea that the regulations could arise next to the idea that too many people are here ruining the planet, doesn’t sit well with me. For I don’t know what will happen if we do nothing, or don’t do enough. But I do know from studying history what can happen when the poorest and least of these are told they are going to die and the world will end unless they fall into line and do what the powers that be say to do.

        • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

          The wrong people could nevertheless be right about a matter of fact. But I doubt that most atmospheric physicists and chemists are nature cultists.

          • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

            Perhaps not. Based on studies I see, just the opposite. Which is, in itself, worth considering.

  • Paulus

    I suppose looking at Mark’s conclusion that it’s fair to say that there are extremists on both sides of this issue. And certainly the subject of climate change has a significant moral dimension. But taking the remarks of a non-scientist columnist for Forbes as representative of the mindset of the scientific community is painting with too broad of a brush. Likewise me being against abortion doesn’t put me on par with someone who bombs an abortion clinic. People who do make such an equivalence are simply acting to marginalize the people they disagree with.

    • Noah D

      Yes, like equating catastrophic AGW skeptics with Holocaust deniers.

  • Charles E Flynn

    Suggested reading, written by someone who knows how to find the fatal flaw in an argument:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/jun/12/the-question-of-global-warming/?pagination=false

    • Noah D

      Interesting stuff, thank you.

      From Dyson’s response to May’s response:

      “we might hypothetically replace a quarter of existing plants by carbon-eating varieties”

      …and people are worried about Monsanto putting their GM crops out in the wild?

  • http://ideasaboutgodandtheworld.wordpress.com/ Alejandro

    Mr. Shea, you do know that the Catholic Church recognizes global warming and is calling people to act on it, right?

    • http://www.communionantiphons.org Andy, Bad Person

      The Church call on people to act as good stewards of the Earth, which is a good idea regardless of your views of global warming. I’m quite skeptical of the moral weight you’re giving the Church’s stance on AGW, though.

      • http://ideasaboutgodandtheworld.wordpress.com/ Alejandro

        Well, what about Church documents that detail the dangers of AGW?
        http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/documents/workinggroup1998.html
        As you see here, the Church does seem to be rather concerned with GW.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          Being concerned with something and studying it is not the same as making strict moral pronouncements.

          • Eric Bohn

            It’s the church’s reponsibility to speak out about issues of social justice. BTW, the USCCB is also concerned about global climate change because of the effects it has had and is having on those least responsible for bringing it about. I can’t understand why some people in the ‘church’ are so stubbornly ostinate in refusing to acknowledge that fact.


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