Monday, February 1, 2016

A High I.Q. Book Reviewer Shows She Can Fall Prey To Stupidity and Nonsense

Carolyn Dane is a reviewer of assorted books for the Intertel regional newsletter 'Port of Call', Intertel being the society for those in the upper 1 percent of I.Q.  In general her reviews are sober assessments of the fare on offer, but occasionally even the best and brightest can be led astray - perhaps because their own political ideology perturbs their perceptions and distorts their reasoning. Such was the case of her recent review ('Port of Call', Feb-March, p. 5) of Mark Steyn's book, 'A Disgrace to the Profession' where he conducts his own jeremiad against University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann and his hockey stick graph. At the outset Dane writes:

"This is a reference book rather than a book to read. It's a definitive refutation of the claim that most scientists believe in the dangers of global warming"

Okay, first, I hate to correct Ms. Dane, but this is no "reference book". A reference work, such as editor John Eddy's for solar physics ('The New Solar Physics, AAAS Symposium, 1978 ), would contain content from actual, past peer reviewed papers published in established,  refereed journals or content from cited monographs by leaders of the discipline. This book has neither, only an inane assembly of colloquial critiques from hacks and scientific has-beens (most not even climate science specialists) mixed with other quotes taken out of context. 

Dane continues:

"One hundred and twenty eminent scientists here, some Nobel laureates with impressive credentials, denounce Michael Mann and his hockey stick chart on which so much fraudulent global warming argument is based."

Let's back up here a bit and first note that, according to The Yale Scientific review of Steyn's book:

 "Steyn does not deny climate change, nor does he deny its anthropogenic causes. His issue, as he puts it, is with the shaft of the hockey stick, not the blade".

See, e.g.

This is important because otherwise one is mixing 'apples and oranges' in terms of the basis for objection to global warming which would certainly not then be called "fraudulent" as Dane mistakenly avers. As the Yale Scientific Review goes on:

"His outrage lies not only in the use of poor data, but in Mann’s deletion of data in ignoring major historical climate shifts such as the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period."

And while we are at it, let me note that Mann's findings were later vindicated. As noted by Rational Wikipedia:

"After the M&M fiasco, a number of climatologists published their own reconstructions of global temperatures from independent lines of research that vindicated Mann's research by showing similar if not identical trends in temperature. Another attempt to discredit the work of Mann came in 2006 with the release of the Wegman Report, which recycled the M&M models and was largely plagiarized."

"M&M" (according to Rational Wiki) refers to  "Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, neither one an actual climatologist (the former a crank blogger and the latter an economist, to be specific), released a number of papers and articles criticizing the hockey stick, two of which managed to get published in scientific journals, and offering their own "reconstruction" of temperatures (often referred to as the "M&M model"). Their "research" was roundly demolished for using algorithms that massively cherry-picked data to the tune of excluding over 80% of the recorded temperatures in some cases to resuscitate the large variations in historical data and "hide the increase" in 20th century temperatures"

 In addition, Mann's exclusion of both periods (Maunder Minimum and Medieval Warming) was quite justified in that both periods were vastly less significant in terms of the C12: C14 isotope ratios I'd previously explained in a Port of Call from 2006. As the graph below shows (from John Eddy's book, op. cit.) the magnitude of the Middle Ages warming period (relative C14 strength of -18), for example, is less than about one half  the relative effect attributed mainly to anthropogenic sources in the modern era (-40). The Maunder Minimum cooling shows a similar (albeit slightly larger) fractional change. But again not as much as for the anthropogenic warming spike in ratio at the right end of the graph.

Graph of radiocarbon (C14) excess over C12 over ~ 2,000 yr. period.

Most significantly from Yale Scientific review (ibid.):

"To Steyn, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and all those who supported the hockey stick graph also did a disservice to science by politicizing climate change to the extent that it gives validity to deniers. However, Steyn may be giving these doubters yet more ammo, because he has done nothing to de-politicize the issue. Steyn claims that Mann has drawn his battle lines wrong — but then, so has Steyn, by attacking Mann instead of focusing on the false science."

In effect, the attacks on Mann himself rather than the science amount to an ad hominem fallacy. Worse, for Steyn, as the Yale Scientific review points out:

"His colloquial tone could be seen as a satirical take on what Steyn refers to as Mann’s “cartoon climatology,” but it eventually subverts his argument by driving the same points over and over while never fully delving into scientific details"

But without the scientific details, again, this cannot be regarded as a reference work. It is more a colloquial polemic against Mann and the "cartoon" use of his hockey stick graph, according to Steyn.

As for the "eminent scientists" Steyn enlists, who are they really? None are of note in the immediate climate arena, and none are even climate specialists. One (Ivar Giaever)  is a 1973 Nobel Physics winner, but is basically a has- been who has done about as much climate science research as a dentist who thinks he can pick up cardiac surgery from encyclopedias in his spare time and emerge as a transplant specialist. As one Skeptic Science entry on Giaever observed:

"While Giaever is certainly a highly accomplished physicist, that does not automatically make him a climate expert as well.  As Giaever himself has admitted, he has spent very little time researching the subject, and it shows.  He simply bounces from one climate myth to the next, demonstrating a lack of understanding of Climate Science 101, and then insults the entire scientific field by comparing it to a religion,"

And that about sums up the whole collection of "luminaries" that Steyn assembles for his book.

The only reason, indeed, one would fawn over  Steyn’s polemic would be if one is already a global warming skeptic (anthropogenic  aspect denier) who merely seeks confirmation bias. She is likely  also a movement conservative in mindset like he is. Otherwise there’d be no reason to award this absurd load of recycled denier drivel 4 of 5 stars (like so many of the ignorant loons on do) given he is no climate scientist. He’s just another pawn doing the bidding of the fossil fuel companies. In this case using selective obscurantist tactics driven by an obsessive compulsive fascination with Michael Mann and his hockey stick.

Here’s a question for Carolyn:  If indeed Steyn’s work in Volume 1 is of such devastating finality,  quintessential clarity, and  ballast, i.e. that it “should end the argument once and for all’ then why hasn’t any of it been published in any peer reviewed scientific journal or even an ancillary journal like ‘Science and Justice’? Why haven't the illustrious critiques from Steyn’s luminaries  been published in any journals of renown? Hell, Physics Today always includes a section for opinion and these iconoclasts could even deliver it there - but I've never seen anything from Steyn's stellar constellation of squawkers.

Oh wait, perhaps this because of the conspiracy theory (well circulated among movement conservatives and their denier spawn) that the formal climate science establishment are all in cahoots so protect each other and keep the naysayers and critics out by selective rejection, . The only problem with this is that it's not how science - a competitive enterprise - works. If I am a journal referee and also a researcher who seeks to publish my papers in the same journal (or similar ones), it does me no service to give your work a pass if it competes with my own. If anything, the competitive peer reviewer is looking for anything to knock down a competitor's work to at least delay its publication. But the fact that over 15,000 peer reviewed papers in support of anthropogenic global warming have been published in the last 25 years puts this myth to rest.

 Sadly, Dane seems to be oblivious to the vast constellation of solid research supporting the validity of global warming science and particularly the anthropogenic contribution. She appears to comically reduce it to pure 'faith' like Giaever does when she babbles:
"But of course true believers will ignore it because anthropogenic science is a faith, not science"
Which elicits the question how she would know that since she clearly has done no climate science research herself - only chosen to parrot what Steyn and his skeptic cohort have put out. I suggest strongly she consult the position statement of the foremost organization of REAL climate scientists, the American Geophysical Union before she next responds. She (and others) can find the link to that statement on human-induced warming here:

While it is certainly understandable that  unread conservative-libertarian ideologues would have a problem with the current body of scientific data (since it challenges their preconceptions), it serves no rational purpose to simply carp and seethe about “cartoon hockey sticks”  (In any case, it is the Keeling curve, proposed by Charles Keeling of Mauna Loa Observatory, that best embodies the global warming increase arising from anthropogenic sources) .

 Want to make an inroad and show your side is in the right? Publish the serious  work- assuming you have any -  in the peer-reviewed journals for real climate science and stop bellyaching how you're being "persecuted" by the alleged establishment!

Perhaps the best summation of Steyn's book comes from one of the few amazon,com reviewers in possession of his wits and critical thinking skills:

 "Stein has never published a paper on climatology or climate physics. He thinks the top 200 scientific bodies on Earth are wrong. Yet, he cannot come up with enough evidence to show why in a peer reviewed journal. This book is nothing more than a slop for conspiracy theorists inside their glass shell of confirmation bias. It's the equivalent of spraying vinegar to ward of the poison gases from mythical chemtrails. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson said, "the laws of physics are real, everything else is politics". I suspect this will be a big seller among those who only have (the second world standard) high school education. It tells them what they fervently want to believe, even though it's unfortunately not true."



Publius said...

Shouldn't that be the Irrational Wiki?

Copernicus said...

And your reasons are....what, exactly? Because their take doesn't jibe with yours that AGW is a "fable"?

FYI, Rational Wikipedia, like Skeptic Science, has consistently sided on the side of reason and science - as opposed to the pseudoscience of the AGW deniers. If you knew more, research more, i.e. the peer-reviewed papers of actual climate scientists you wouldn't make such a clueless remark.