Denial of Reality

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Jim Torson

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Apr 8, 2007, 4:57:13 PM4/8/07
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Greetings,

Some of you may have seen my previous reference to the
following post on Chris Mooney's blog:

http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/i_have_a_paper_in_science_no_t.php
I have a paper in Science (And No, This is Not an April Fools
Joke)

This refers to a paper in the latest issue of Science magazine
by Mooney and Matt Nisbet entitled "Science and Society:
Framing Science." In my opinion, this raises a very important
subject that needs to be considered. I haven't actually read the
article yet because it is behind a paid-subscription firewall.
However, it has generated a lot of interesting discussion.

The reason I think this is important is that it deals with the
very important subject of the denial of reality on the part of
large segments of society. Much of the discussion resulting
from this article has centered on science-related subjects such
as global warming and evolution and the problems of
communicating science to the general public. However, I
think the denial-of-reality problem applies to many other subjects
as well, e.g., the war in Iraq. I'm sure you can think of a number
of others. (By the way, I think there is a problem with the denial
of reality on the part of the scientific community in a number
of important subjects because science refuses to examine the
evidence in these areas. Some of you will know what
subjects I am referring to. :) )

Awhile ago there was a public "debate" about global warming
that included Gavin Schmidt, one of the climate scientists who
contributes to the RealClimate website:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/global-warming-debate/
Global Warming Debate

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/adventures-on-the-east-side/
Adventures on the East Side

There is no doubt in my mind that Schmidt presented
overwhelming scientific evidence to counter the nonsense from
the other side, which included science fiction author Michael
Crichton. However, as soon as I heard about the upcoming
"debate," I knew it was doomed to failure. For one thing,
by participating in this debate, the message to the public is
that there is still an ongoing scientific debate about the
cause and seriousness of climate change. The response of the
public is to roll their eyes and say, "Wake me up if the scientists
ever figure it out and stop arguing." I was not surprised that
Schmidt's side "lost" the debate. Surveys of the audience before
and after the debate indicated that after the debate more people
were skeptical that global warming is a real problem. This
illustrates that just presenting the facts is not effective in
reaching people.

One of the email discussion lists that I subscribe to has
160 members but only about a dozen ever say anything.
Most of the views that are discussed are things that I would
not agree with. (It's of interest to see how other people view
various issues.) However, I figured that there must be some
lurkers who had a bit more sense, so I posted a few articles
about the IPCC Summary for Policymakers that was released
in February. I ended up realizing that there apparently is not a
single person on the list who is willing to accept reality
concerning global warming.

It has been clear for a long time that some people on that list
think global warming is just hysteria invented by scientists so
they can get research funding. I.e., basically, the vast majority
of climate scientists around the world are lying and falsifying
data for their own personal short-term gain. I have to say that
that is certainly some whopper of a conspiracy theory! However,
in all the discussion on the list, there has not been a single
person who suggested that perhaps we might want to give some
consideration to what the scientists are saying. Not a single one.
It appears that everyone on the list rejects the reality that is
revealed by science. I find this stunning.

The thing that really made me realize how stunning this is was
the comments from one person who has sometimes made some
sensible comments, so I had thought he might have a little bit
of good sense. In one response on global warming he said,
"Currently, I'm not convinced that either side has done enough
peer (whoever that may be is the topic of another time) review
to fully debug their positions." I responded by summarizing the
very extensive review of climate science that has occurred and
asked why that review is insufficient and what further review
he thinks is necessary. I was stunned by his response:

--------
My concept of "Peer Review" is to get all the guys together
that either are or consider themselves to be Climate Experts
and publicly discuss unresolved claims. That way, the entire
World gets to see whether any of the unresolved claims are
valid or not. If all the unresolved claims are invalid, then let's
move on with the majority opinion.
--------

Duh! I guess what he wants is to have the thousands of
scientists involved with the IPCC report get together in a
giant room and publicly discuss all 30,000 comments that
were made on the draft IPCC report, etc. And, I suppose
he wants this to be televised on C-SPAN or something.
Obviously, such a thing would be ridiculous and totally not
feasible. He basically is saying that he believes the
conspiracy theory that the vast majority of the world's
climate scientists are liars. This rejection of reality simply
boggles my mind. Presenting more scientific facts to people
who believe scientists are liars is useless.

The discussion quickly drifted off onto other topics that the
folks on this list love to discuss, e.g., bashing of liberals,
academics and immigrants. Also a lot of congratulating each
other on how smart and hard-working they all are. It made
me want to puke.

I guess the question that was bugging me was: How can people
possibly believe that climate scientists are making up global
warming and just lying for their own self-interest rather than
seriously trying to understand what's happening to the climate
to try to have a positive impact on the world? Thinking about
the discussions on this list resulted in me realizing the answer
to this question. People are able to believe scientists are only
motivated by their own self-interest because that is the
relationship to the world that these people have. I suppose this
is nothing new, but I guess I never really fully realized how
prevalent it is.

I really was stunned by the realization that so many people
actually believe that the vast majority of the world's climate
scientists are just a bunch of selfish liars. I have worked in
"big science" for thirty years, and I am well aware that
science is not perfect and sometimes gets it wrong when they
refuse to look at the evidence in an area. However, global
warming is an area that has been very extensively studied.
The idea that climate scientists are wrong about global
warming being largely caused by human activities and that
they are just lying about the data is simply beyond belief.

My conclusion: The barbarians are at the gates, and just
presenting the facts will not give us any protection.

Another example of the problems faced by the reality-based
community is the infamous film "The Great Global Warming
Swindle." When I started watching "Swindle," I thought I
would just watch a short piece of it. However, I ended up
watching the entire thing. I guess it's sort of like when you see
a bad car wreck. It's so horrible that you just can't avoid
staring. On the one hand, it was a steady stream of misleading
statements, inaccuracies, cherry-picking of data, and out-right
lies. There was very little in the program that was true and
accurate. However, the most amazing thing was that it really
was quite well done. For people who don't know enough about
the subject (which is a lot of people), I'm quite sure they would
be convinced by the program. It almost had me starting to
doubt that we have a global warming problem. I really just had
a sick feeling as I realized that the program would be quite
effective in advancing the views of the skeptics.

Enough rambling... back to the Mooney/Nisbet article in
Science and discussions of what we should do about the
problems...

Further discussions of these issues are contained in additional
entries in Mooney's and Nisbet's blogs:

http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/framing_science_some_replies_1.php
Framing Science: Many More Posts, a Few Replies

http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2007/04/dont_be_a_dodo_bloggers_weigh.php
Bloggers respond to commentary at the journal Science

http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/framing_science_my_response_to.php
Framing Science: My Response to PZ

These contain lots of links to discussions on various other blogs.
In particular, I call your attention to one that Nisbet refers to
as "A must-read synthesis by Bora at Blog Around the Clock:"

http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2007/04/framing_science_the_dialogue_o.php
Framing Science - the Dialogue of the Deaf

I agree that this is an excellent discussion. It is long - the
writer admits to having "severe blogorrhea." :) However,
if you only read one other article on the subject, this is the
one that I would recommend.

The bottom line is that the reality-based community needs
to understand that simply sticking to the facts is not
having the desired effect. This applies to global warming
and also many other areas. This applies to both scientists
and non-scientists. If we want to have a better
society in this country and the world, we will need to
develop better ways of communicating. Those who would
deny reality are way ahead of us on developing these
methods.

Jim

gerh...@aston.ac.uk

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Apr 10, 2007, 2:58:56 PM4/10/07
to globalchange
> Surveys of the audience before
> and after the debate indicated that after the debate more people
> were skeptical that global warming is a real problem. This
> illustrates that just presenting the facts is not effective in
> reaching people.

It illustrates that much of the debate isn't about facts, but about
moral values and judgment.

I am actually of the opinion that if this* was purely a question of
fact, you'd readily find agreement.

* the nature of the response required to deal with climate change

> It has been clear for a long time that some people on that list
> think global warming is just hysteria invented by scientists so
> they can get research funding.

Exageration isn't the same as lying, and arguably most of the hysteria
doesn't come from climate scientists, but from the media and
environmental activists.

Michael Tobis

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Apr 10, 2007, 4:04:18 PM4/10/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
On 4/10/07, gerh...@aston.ac.uk <gerh...@aston.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> > Surveys of the audience before
> > and after the debate indicated that after the debate more people
> > were skeptical that global warming is a real problem. This
> > illustrates that just presenting the facts is not effective in
> > reaching people.
>
> It illustrates that much of the debate isn't about facts, but about
> moral values and judgment.
>
> I am actually of the opinion that if this* was purely a question of
> fact, you'd readily find agreement.
>
> * the nature of the response required to deal with climate change

First of all, does this observation reinforce or contradict Jim's
point? I think it is the former.

It is obvious that the issues of judgement and values, as well as
their expressions in expectations and unconscious biases, are at work.
However, we seem unable to reach agreement about the factual basis,
the way we might if we were observing a like phenomenon on a distant
inhabited planet.

That is to say, our values disagreements are affecting our judgement.

> > It has been clear for a long time that some people on that list
> > think global warming is just hysteria invented by scientists so
> > they can get research funding.
>
> Exageration isn't the same as lying, and arguably most of the hysteria
> doesn't come from climate scientists, but from the media and
> environmental activists.

Heiko, this is the first hint of unfairness I have seen in your own
postings. I find this response quite inconsiderate.

Jim has not taken the position that these is significant hysteria;
quite the contrary. For you to move from hysteria attribution when the
proposition was invalid hysteria detection seems unnecessarily
provocative. Perhaps there is some misunderstanding.

In my opinion, the lack of a clear understanding of a not enormously
complicated problem arises not because of the complexity of the system
in which the problem arises, but because of deliberate obfuscation of
the problem by self-interest on the part of owners of fossil fuel
reserves, which plays on certain intrinsic beliefs in some segments of
the society.

The misunderstanding is evenly distributed on both sides of the aisle,
but the consequences of the confusion are extremely asymmetric. Most
people who suppport policy action misunderstand the details of the
situation. Most people who oppose policy action (you can tell them by
the "draconian" that is always following them about) are confused
about whom to trust. They sign up for the wrong team.

I do not include yourself or other Lomborgists in this at all. You
have a much more reasoned case. I think you are wrong, but I think you
are wrong in the right way, in that you are accessible to reason and
are willing at least to identify your core assumptions. At least we
can come to agreement about where our assumptions differ, and perhaps
we can reach policy compromise where a values agreement is
unavailable.

That is not the issue Jim takes up here, or that I take up in my blog.

IPCC WG 1 report accurately represents both the center and the spreead
of the opinions of relevant physical scientists on the physical
science questions. This is cast as a vicious pack of lies, and many
people believe this or give some credit to this malicious slander.

This is tragic not only for our field, but for human civilzation.
These shenanigans are not unique to our field, and if they succeed
they will only become more common. We absolutely must build a network
of trust between those who know what they are talking about and the
public at large.

I believe that when I was young this existed, and now it is gone. Even
if climate change is overrated this is no small matter.

mt

Raymond Arritt

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Apr 10, 2007, 9:11:10 PM4/10/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
Jim Torson wrote:
> It has been clear for a long time that some people on that list
> think global warming is just hysteria invented by scientists so
> they can get research funding. I.e., basically, the vast majority
> of climate scientists around the world are lying and falsifying
> data for their own personal short-term gain. I have to say that
> that is certainly some whopper of a conspiracy theory!

Man, does that sound familiar.

At the moment the Wikipedia article on Global warming is under heavy
assault from people who want to, uh, "broaden the article's scope"
precisely so that such allegations can be included.

Andrew Feeney

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Apr 11, 2007, 12:05:24 AM4/11/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
I don't know exactly how to write this in a way that will not seem overly abrasive, but it seems to me that the intense resistance to the idea of global warming is partly being fed by institutions and maybe social movements that find in the science a very serious threat to their interests. 
 
In some cases -- in the instance of the big fossil fuel companies, joined by the governments of many oil-dependent nations -- those interests in the economic sense are almost overwhelming, literally amounting to trillions of dollars.  It therefore seems unsurprising to me that some of the threatened interests will fight very, very hard against AGW findings that indicate that fossil fuel production, for example, is an environmental  problem or a threat to climate stability. 
 
And since the corporations and governments with an economic stake in fossil fuel production really do have trillions of dollars invested, they have ample financial resources available to carry on a very skillful and determined public relations campaign that promotes what many people in this group would consider "denial of reality."
 
This means that AGW researchers are simply going to encounter quite a lot of "denial of reality," doesn't it?
 
There's also a fairly powerful and quite well-funded set of organizations and interests that has been agitating for some time against what they consider "environmental extremism," more or less apart from the question of what this environmental extremism might mean for energy companies in particular. 
 
I recall a book called "The Green Backlash" that appeared around a decade ago, outlining how in the American West in particular, corporations and individuals associated with the major extractive industries had invested quite heavily in educational and organizational efforts to discredit environmentalists as supposedly representing an illegitimate and excessively left-leaning political agenda, and how these "anti-green" interests were working to mobilize ordinary citizens in many western towns and rural areas to stop the "liberal" or "socialist" green threat. 
 
This "anti-green backlash," I think, represents another entire network of different economic and political interests, some only loosely connected to the fossil fuel producers, who have an interest in trying to minimize the significance of any AGW effect.  And they too have considerable amounts of money and established networks for spending that money to influence public opinion.
 
This situation virtually guarantees that many seemingly intelligent people are going to be quite skeptical of the IPCC findings and other pronouncements by AGW researchers, I think. 
 
This is quite apart from what many of us in here would consider "legitimate" or "honest" skepticism about anthropogenic climate change.  There are people with scientific backgrounds, some of them in this group, who have genuine doubts about some of the pronouncements made by Hansen, say.  But there also are quite rational people working for the energy industry and other large extractive industries who feel they have excellent instrumental  reasons for combatting the IPCC's findings, regardless of whether these scientific findings  are trustworthy.  And given the intensity of their opposition to the IPCC and the extent of their financial resources, it's inevitable that this will have some effect on public debates and discussions of climate issues.
 
How scientists like Jim should go about trying to cope with this problem is unclear, but it seems essential to recognize that it exists.

Raymond Arritt <rwar...@bruce.agron.iastate.edu> wrote:

Sucker-punch spam with award-winning protection.
Try the free Yahoo! Mail Beta.

gerh...@aston.ac.uk

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Apr 11, 2007, 6:10:23 PM4/11/07
to globalchange
(my first attempt at a reply got lost somehow, this seems to happen
occasionally with google groups for me, not sure why)

> First of all, does this observation reinforce or contradict Jim's
> point? I think it is the former.

It depends on what Jim's point is. The debate in question wasn't about
whether the IPCC reports are excellent reviews of the current state of
knowledge of climate science, they were about whether climate change
is a "crisis" after all.

There were some strange points made in that particular discussion, but
a lot of it focused on issues of justice (who should do the cutting)
and cost effectiveness of any action (shouldn't other things be a
priority), rather than climate science, and I believe Stott, Crichton
and Linzen all acknowledged that greenhouse gases will warm the
planet.

> Heiko, this is the first hint of unfairness I have seen in your own
> postings. I find this response quite inconsiderate.
>
> Jim has not taken the position that these is significant hysteria;
> quite the contrary. For you to move from hysteria attribution when the
> proposition was invalid hysteria detection seems unnecessarily
> provocative. Perhaps there is some misunderstanding.

It wasn't intended as a provocation.

I had to think of a conversation I had with my mother in law. She is
highly apolitical and commented that she thought that the atmosphere
with regards to climate change in Germany was hysterical. I think that
has got very little to do with scientists being hysterical, or with
climate change deniers or oil companies feeding her with false
information. I think it's largely due to the fact that a lot of media
reporting on the issue comes across as hysterical to her.

So, if Jim talks about invalid hysteria detection with regards to
scientists, isn't it a fair point to say that one reason for this
invalid hysteria detection is that there's a lot of media coverage
that is questionable?

> In my opinion, the lack of a clear understanding of a not enormously
> complicated problem arises not because of the complexity of the system
> in which the problem arises, but because of deliberate obfuscation of
> the problem by self-interest on the part of owners of fossil fuel
> reserves, which plays on certain intrinsic beliefs in some segments of
> the society.

The self interest of oil companies is to make a profit, and climate
change action may actually enhance that profit. For example, a major
consequence of carbon trading tends to be that effective coal prices
rise, and therefore nat gas becomes more attractive. Exxon does not
produce any coal, but a lot of natural gas.

I am therefore not surprised that some oil companies take a stance
very much in favour of cap and trade, as they stand to benefit rather
than lose, especially so, if the cap and trade regime is designed
right. In Europe, it has been, and we've seen BP making a profit from
selling allowances (and even more profit from higher nat gas prices)
and NHS hospitals having to pay up for carbon allowances for example.

> I do not include yourself or other Lomborgists in this at all. You
> have a much more reasoned case. I think you are wrong, but I think you
> are wrong in the right way, in that you are accessible to reason and
> are willing at least to identify your core assumptions. At least we
> can come to agreement about where our assumptions differ, and perhaps
> we can reach policy compromise where a values agreement is
> unavailable.

That's a very important point, I'd put it as: there are issues, where
reasonable people can disagree because of the complexity of the
assumption you need to make to come to a reasoned judgment.

> I believe that when I was young this existed, and now it is gone. Even
> if climate change is overrated this is no small matter.

All generations seem to believe that things have gone downhill ;-), I
haven't really seen any surveys suggesting there's been a
deterioration in trust, but maybe there has been.

James Annan

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Apr 12, 2007, 7:31:14 AM4/12/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
gerh...@aston.ac.uk wrote:

> So, if Jim talks about invalid hysteria detection with regards to
> scientists, isn't it a fair point to say that one reason for this
> invalid hysteria detection is that there's a lot of media coverage
> that is questionable?

But "We know that continuing our current pattern of energy use will have
devastating consequences for the Earth's climate and people's lives,"
according to Mr Benn.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/business/6546439.stm

Panic is clearly appropriate.

:-)

James

BTW gerhaus, you are currently whitelisted, so any missing messages are
certainly a fault of google rather than that of the moderators.

fw...@btinternet.com

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Apr 17, 2007, 10:43:44 AM4/17/07
to globalchange
Hello to all here. Poking my head above the parapet for the first time
on this group. By strange coincidence, some of these issues feature on
my new blog (yes, everyone's at it these days), where those of you who
don't already know me can find some rather mediocre but sincere
efforts to improve communication about climate change. For the
interested: http://fergusbrown.wordpress.com/
Two matters you may be able to help with: how do I get the
globalchange linky thingy onto my page? - mods may be able to help
here; also; I've sent James a draft of a two page mail out I'm doing
soon to support research; I'd appreciate feedback from William,
Michael or other climate scientists who have a spare ten minutes,
before I finalise the document. Any takers? Obvously, for
confidentiality reasons, I can't just post the thing on here...

With respect to what is being discussed here, the question I would ask
is; how does a field of human endeavour which has at its foundation a
profound belief in the value of reason go about addressing an audience
which, for a variety of reasons, has a large proportion of members
whose response to the issues is irrational and who do not value reason
in the same way, instead apparently preferring an almost pre-rational,
mythic narrative and its associated value system?

Fergus. New boy :)
On 12 Apr, 12:31, James Annan <james.an...@gmail.com> wrote:

Mazz...@gmail.com

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Apr 19, 2007, 1:43:41 AM4/19/07
to globalchange
Greetings Global Change Members,

The reality of the problem is not whether we are or are not observing
climate change or who is right and who is wrong. Those debates are
not going to solve anything, there are simply too many details that
can obscure the big picture. Rather, what we need to talk about are
the consequences of climate change if it is happening. Do we really
want to gamble with our earth? The earth systems will need thousands
to millions of years to re-equilibrate from an anthropogenic-forced
climate change. Unfortunately, the probability is not in our favor
and there is too much money at stake for both individuals and major
businesses. Fossil fuels are not going away anytime soon and the cost
of the "remaining" fuels is not likely to climb much above normal
inflation rates. It seems that the way we think about energy and
economy needs to be reformed for progress in our societies (including
developing nations).

Lynn


On Apr 8, 2:57 pm, Jim Torson <jtor...@commspeed.net> wrote:
> Greetings,
>
> Some of you may have seen my previous reference to the
> following post on Chris Mooney's blog:
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/i_have_a_paper_in_scienc...


> I have a paper in Science (And No, This is Not an April Fools
> Joke)
>
> This refers to a paper in the latest issue of Science magazine
> by Mooney and Matt Nisbet entitled "Science and Society:
> Framing Science." In my opinion, this raises a very important
> subject that needs to be considered. I haven't actually read the
> article yet because it is behind a paid-subscription firewall.
> However, it has generated a lot of interesting discussion.
>
> The reason I think this is important is that it deals with the
> very important subject of the denial of reality on the part of
> large segments of society. Much of the discussion resulting
> from this article has centered on science-related subjects such
> as global warming and evolution and the problems of
> communicating science to the general public. However, I
> think the denial-of-reality problem applies to many other subjects
> as well, e.g., the war in Iraq. I'm sure you can think of a number
> of others. (By the way, I think there is a problem with the denial
> of reality on the part of the scientific community in a number
> of important subjects because science refuses to examine the
> evidence in these areas. Some of you will know what
> subjects I am referring to. :) )
>
> Awhile ago there was a public "debate" about global warming
> that included Gavin Schmidt, one of the climate scientists who
> contributes to the RealClimate website:
>

> http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/global-warming-...
> Global Warming Debate
>
> http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/adventures-on-t...

> http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/framing_science_some_rep...


> Framing Science: Many More Posts, a Few Replies
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2007/04/dont_be_a_dodo_blogge...


> Bloggers respond to commentary at the journal Science
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/framing_science_my_respo...

Tony Lee

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Apr 19, 2007, 9:18:12 PM4/19/07
to globalchange
Great post, Jim. I especially liked the bit about them being
conspiracy theorists, and I think this is what needs to be pushed in
the media.

Forget the leaders for the moment. The non-scientists in the movement
are classic conspiracy theorists. If you check through the comments on
conservative political blogs, they equate Kyoto and global warming
with a socialist/communist plot. Calling "Al Bore" a propagandist is
typical conspiracy theory behaviour.

Another characteristic: their laser-like focus on data points that
haven't yet been explained by the received interpretation. And when
these anomalies are eventually incorporated into the mainstream theory
in the ordinary course of events, they switch to another anomaly, or
ignore the new research.

Some of these conspiracy theorists are pundits. They should be called
out on it.

As for the scientists -- and here's the other point I want to make --
I think that to some extent it's counterproductive to tackle the
science head-on in the public discourse. These issues can be very
confusing to many -- hell, I'm no scientist, and I find it confusing,
even though I've spent years absorbing the basic outline of the
arguments.

But there was a moment there, with the Naomi Oreskes study in 2004,
when scientists (and the media!) had the opportunity to teach the
public about peer review and how much of a difference it makes to
modern science. Yes, it's not the be-all and end-all. Human cloning
claims can still sneak through -- but not for long. That teaching
moment can still come -- in fact, it needs to come. What I've found
trawling through right-wing sites is that pundits and bloggers and
commenters have no clue about peer review.

The denial industry and its affiliated cranks have taken advantage of
this to create an alternative research literature which, to untrained
eyes, appears to have the imprimatur of academics. We know it doesn't,
but who else knows? The media? The public?

I think we need to hammer that message: IT'S THE PEER REVIEW, STUPID!

Then if people want to knock that down, they have to claim that peer
review doesn't work because of a global conspiracy. They're already
trying to do that with respect to the IPCC. But that's a dangerous
game for them, because it leads to -- you guessed it -- conspiracy
theory.

Tony


On Apr 9, 8:57 am, Jim Torson <jtor...@commspeed.net> wrote:
> Greetings,
>
> Some of you may have seen my previous reference to the
> following post on Chris Mooney's blog:
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/i_have_a_paper_in_scienc...


> I have a paper in Science (And No, This is Not an April Fools
> Joke)
>
> This refers to a paper in the latest issue of Science magazine
> by Mooney and Matt Nisbet entitled "Science and Society:
> Framing Science." In my opinion, this raises a very important
> subject that needs to be considered. I haven't actually read the
> article yet because it is behind a paid-subscription firewall.
> However, it has generated a lot of interesting discussion.
>
> The reason I think this is important is that it deals with the
> very important subject of the denial of reality on the part of
> large segments of society. Much of the discussion resulting
> from this article has centered on science-related subjects such
> as global warming and evolution and the problems of
> communicating science to the general public. However, I
> think the denial-of-reality problem applies to many other subjects
> as well, e.g., the war in Iraq. I'm sure you can think of a number
> of others. (By the way, I think there is a problem with the denial
> of reality on the part of the scientific community in a number
> of important subjects because science refuses to examine the
> evidence in these areas. Some of you will know what
> subjects I am referring to. :) )
>
> Awhile ago there was a public "debate" about global warming
> that included Gavin Schmidt, one of the climate scientists who
> contributes to the RealClimate website:
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/framing_science_some_rep...


> Framing Science: Many More Posts, a Few Replies
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2007/04/dont_be_a_dodo_blogge...


> Bloggers respond to commentary at the journal Science
>

> http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/04/framing_science_my_respo...

Coby Beck

unread,
Apr 19, 2007, 11:34:41 PM4/19/07
to globalchange
On Apr 18, 12:43 am, f...@btinternet.com wrote:

Hi Fergus,

> Two matters you may be able to help with: how do I get the
> globalchange linky thingy onto my page? - mods may be able to help

The following code will put that on:

<!--- Google Group plug -->
<table style="border:1px solid #aa0033; font-size:small" align=center>
<tr>
<td colspan=2 align=center><b>Want to start your own topic?
Subscribe to <a href="http://groups.google.com/group/globalchange/
about">globalchange</a></b></td>
</tr>
<form action="http://groups.google.com/group/globalchange/
boxsubscribe">
<input type=hidden name="hl" value="en">
<tr>
<td align=center><input type=text size=10 name=email></td>
<td align=center><input type=submit name="sub" value="Subscribe"></
td>
</tr>
</form>
<tr><td colspan=2 align=center>
<b>Or post and read <a href="http://groups.google.com/group/
globalchange">here</a></b>.
</td></tr>
</table>

as it appears on A Few Things Ill Considered

Coby

Tom Adams

unread,
Apr 20, 2007, 2:21:10 PM4/20/07
to globalchange
On Apr 8, 4:57 pm, Jim Torson <jtor...@commspeed.net> wrote:

> The bottom line is that the reality-based community needs
> to understand that simply sticking to the facts is not
> having the desired effect. This applies to global warming
> and also many other areas. This applies to both scientists
> and non-scientists. If we want to have a better
> society in this country and the world, we will need to
> develop better ways of communicating. Those who would
> deny reality are way ahead of us on developing these
> methods.
>
> Jim

Looks like severe water deprivation works well against the deniers:

http://comment.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/article2465904.ece

James Annan

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 5:39:27 AM4/22/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
fw...@btinternet.com wrote:
>
> With respect to what is being discussed here, the question I would ask
> is; how does a field of human endeavour which has at its foundation a
> profound belief in the value of reason go about addressing an audience
> which, for a variety of reasons, has a large proportion of members
> whose response to the issues is irrational and who do not value reason
> in the same way, instead apparently preferring an almost pre-rational,
> mythic narrative and its associated value system?

Hi Fergus,

Firstly, I'm assuming there's no real need to address this audience
except in cases where there are democratic decisions to be made: for
example, cosmologists and string theorists can just ignore them, broadly
speaking.

With that in mind, I think the Pielkian (Jr) answer is to redefine the
problem in such a way that the denialists can swallow an acceptable
solution, the Mooney and Nisbet answer is to dress it up in language
that might disarm their objections, and the scientists' answer is to
wait for them to die out.

James

James Annan

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 5:47:53 AM4/22/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
Tony Lee wrote:

> I think we need to hammer that message: IT'S THE PEER REVIEW, STUPID!

I think it's a dangerous game to play, to pretend that peer review is
the be-all and end-all of things. Every so often, some nonsense sneaks
through the net - even in good journals - and if you equate peer review
with truth then it's a bit of an open goal...

Peer review is definitely flawed and IMO best viewed as, like democracy,
merely the least bad of the alternatives.

James

James Annan

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 5:54:26 AM4/22/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
James Annan wrote:

> Peer review is definitely flawed and IMO best viewed as, like democracy,
> merely the least bad of the alternatives.

"Flawed" may sound stronger than I meant (which is merely that it
doesn't always get things right). I don't offer any solutions, although
the EGU system is an interesting one.

James

fw...@btinternet.com

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 7:22:37 AM4/22/07
to globalchange
Which system are you referring to, James; the open publishing one, or
the large conference one?
On the other matter, how to communicate, I am sure we are all aware
what a complex issue this is. ATM I'm thinking about the 'forked
tongue' approach; write in a reasonable and equable tone, but load
sentences with implicit assumptions about the issue by use of key
phrases and words. Perhaps a guide to rhetoric and language use might
be worth considering?

I'd also thought about the response to the blatantly contrarian post
that riddle most sites. Given their standard tone, perhaps a charge of
being a bully might effectively place these people and their comments
in context; as most of the content is aggressive and personal, a
reference to name-calling and playground pushing could defuse the
impact (if any) of such declamations.

Just a couple of thoughts...

Tony Lee

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 6:59:30 PM4/22/07
to globalchange

Yes, I also had memories of some incidents in mind -- cold fusion, the
S Korean human cloning debacle, Soon & Balliunas -- but forged ahead
with that statement.

What I intended to say was that the public wants a simple shorthand
way of determining good science from bad science. Deniers have
successfully muddied the water by creating a parallel universe of
denial literature. Here in NZ, the Climate Science Coalition

http://www.climatescience.org.nz/

has a web site full of spurious links. To the untrained eye, this is
all scientific evidence (note the huge numbers of pdf files; sad to
say, but that gives credibility.)

Now IANACS, but I have a question: I often read on sites like
RealClimate etc, that this or that sceptics' study was published in an
"obscure" journal. How do you know which journals are better rated?

I'm asking because I'm studying (from a social science point of view)
the way people talk about climate change in media and on blogs, and am
thinking this would be a useful metric for my analysis.

Raymond Arritt

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 9:13:19 PM4/22/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
Tony Lee wrote:

> Now IANACS, but I have a question: I often read on sites like
> RealClimate etc, that this or that sceptics' study was published in an
> "obscure" journal. How do you know which journals are better rated?
>
> I'm asking because I'm studying (from a social science point of view)
> the way people talk about climate change in media and on blogs, and am
> thinking this would be a useful metric for my analysis.

Good question. There's no definitive answer but there are some useful
indicators.

First, check if the journal is indexed in the ISI Web of Science. This
will weed out the really obscure ones.

See how many libraries carry the journal. There's a way to check this
but I've forgotten how. (Anyone?)

Also look at whether the nature of the journal fits with the subject
matter. Ask yourself questions like, why is this paper on climate
modeling published in a journal that mostly deals with oil exploration?
Sometimes there's a good reason -- e.g., there are arguments that
modeling of paleoclimate could be useful for oil exploration because
fossil fuels are made of old living matter. But in general, if a paper
that claims to be relevant to climate is published in a journal that
hardly ever publishes papers on climate that should raise a flag (a good
recent example is the infamous "global temperature" article published in
the Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics).

Finally, look at the curriculum vitae of some climate scientists. Many
have their CVs posted on the web. The field is rather small, and you'll
notice that the same journals appear over and over again.

Others can chime in with their suggestions.


James Annan

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 4:36:12 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com

fwmb wrote:
>
> Which system are you referring to, James; the open publishing one, or
> the large conference one?

I meant the open publishing - or more specifically, open review. This way, pretty much anything can get an airing but if it's dross you can see it get ripped to shreds by the reviewers. The authors get to respond to the criticisms, too (which doesn't always happen elsewhere, even in private).

Conferences have essentially no quality control: it is virtually unheard-of for the EGU to actually reject any submission.

James

James Annan

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 4:36:27 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com

Tony Lee wrote:
> What I intended to say was that the public wants a simple shorthand
> way of determining good science from bad science.

The public has a habit of wanting 3 impossible things before breakfast!

Actually I think a significant proportion of the pubic doesn't want to be troubled by pesky facts and their damned liberal agenda.

>
> Now IANACS, but I have a question: I often read on sites like
> RealClimate etc, that this or that sceptics' study was published in an

> "obscure" journal. How do you know which journals are better rated?

As a rough guide, the citations index of the journal - the number of times an average paper is cited - is what people go on, but it's not much use in telling whether an individual paper is much good. In fact even looking at the paper's citations isn't worth much, as they may all be pointing out its errors, or just using it as a generic "further study is needed" peg.

I've heard it said that the best way to get a massively cited paper is to publish something wrong in Nature.

Rather than worrying about individual papers, it is probably better to rely on the regular assessment reports eg IPCC, which, although imperfect, describes pretty well what most scientists working in the area think.

James

William M Connolley

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 7:21:22 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com

On Sun, 22 Apr 2007, Raymond Arritt wrote:
>> Now IANACS, but I have a question: I often read on sites like
>> RealClimate etc, that this or that sceptics' study was published in an
>> "obscure" journal. How do you know which journals are better rated?

If you have ISI, you can check the impact factor

-W.

William M Connolley | w...@bas.ac.uk | http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/met/wmc/
Climate Modeller, British Antarctic Survey | 07985 935400

--
This message (and any attachments) is for the recipient only. NERC is subject
to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the contents of this email and any
reply you make may be disclosed by NERC unless it is exempt from release under
the Act. Any material supplied to NERC may be stored in an electronic
records management system.

William M Connolley

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 7:23:13 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com

On Mon, 23 Apr 2007, James Annan wrote:
> I meant the open publishing - or more specifically, open review. This way,
> pretty much anything can get an airing but if it's dross you can see it get
> ripped to shreds by the reviewers.

Have you seen this happen?

James Annan

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 7:47:03 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
William M Connolley wrote:
>
> On Mon, 23 Apr 2007, James Annan wrote:
>> I meant the open publishing - or more specifically, open review. This way,
>> pretty much anything can get an airing but if it's dross you can see it get
>> ripped to shreds by the reviewers.
>
> Have you seen this happen?

Well I wouldn't like to take sides as to who is wrong and who is right
(ie I'm not identifying them as "dross"), but a couple of hockey-stick
related papers on Climate of the Past certainly attracted lengthy and
rather heated debate recently.

If Soon and Baliunas had sent their thing there, I'm sure it would have
been fun...

James

Tony Lee

unread,
Apr 22, 2007, 9:37:52 PM4/22/07
to globalchange
Thanks Raymond!

Cheers,
Tony Lee

William M Connolley

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 8:30:02 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com

On Mon, 23 Apr 2007, James Annan wrote:
> William M Connolley wrote:
>>
>> On Mon, 23 Apr 2007, James Annan wrote:
>>> I meant the open publishing - or more specifically, open review. This way,
>>> pretty much anything can get an airing but if it's dross you can see it get
>>> ripped to shreds by the reviewers.
>>
>> Have you seen this happen?
>
> Well I wouldn't like to take sides as to who is wrong and who is right
> (ie I'm not identifying them as "dross"), but a couple of hockey-stick
> related papers on Climate of the Past certainly attracted lengthy and
> rather heated debate recently.

Not related to this: http://www.copernicus.org/EGU/cp/cp_news.pdf ?

Which paper, btw... I recall somesuch but not the authors. And I wish you did
have a nice example of dross... in fact there is a pre-publication editorial
phase I think, so true dross would never get its chance

-w.

William M Connolley | w...@bas.ac.uk | http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/met/wmc/
Climate Modeller, British Antarctic Survey | 07985 93540

--

James Annan

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 9:18:30 AM4/23/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
William M Connolley wrote:
>
> On Mon, 23 Apr 2007, James Annan wrote:
>> William M Connolley wrote:
>>> On Mon, 23 Apr 2007, James Annan wrote:
>>>> I meant the open publishing - or more specifically, open review. This way,
>>>> pretty much anything can get an airing but if it's dross you can see it get
>>>> ripped to shreds by the reviewers.
>>> Have you seen this happen?
>> Well I wouldn't like to take sides as to who is wrong and who is right
>> (ie I'm not identifying them as "dross"), but a couple of hockey-stick
>> related papers on Climate of the Past certainly attracted lengthy and
>> rather heated debate recently.
>
> Not related to this: http://www.copernicus.org/EGU/cp/cp_news.pdf ?
>

I remember seeing that some time ago, but don't know what it is about.
Anyone?

> Which paper, btw... I recall somesuch but not the authors.

Top two here:

http://www.copernicus.org/EGU/cp/cpd/2/ranking.html

> And I wish you did
> have a nice example of dross... in fact there is a pre-publication editorial
> phase I think, so true dross would never get its chance

Before I dig myself too big a hole, my comment about "dross" was meant
more as a hypothetical "if someone tried to publish dross it would risk
getting publicly eviscerated" and not a comment on specific papers which
have been rejected (of which there are certainly some, although the
system rather obscures it).

I doubt that authors of papers such as "no such thing as global
temperature" would dare to run the gauntlet.

James

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fw...@btinternet.com

unread,
Apr 23, 2007, 9:41:11 AM4/23/07
to globalchange
There was a paper on ACPD by Hansen et. al. recently on what to do
about CC, which hasn't made it yet to the ACP pages. I can't remember
seeing much feedback, but it did read a bit like an informed op-ed,
and it might have been taken home for revision...
That's the best recent example I can think of where the process might
be seen to be at work.

On the more general question of what to do about the snarkers
(denialists and sceptics); there has to be a generic strategy which
will pay dividends. I'm thinking about it. Any suggestions. How do you
deal with the idiot at the back who just shouts 'liar' or 'fool',
'conspiracy' or 'rubbish'?

Jim Torson

unread,
Apr 28, 2007, 5:23:41 PM4/28/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
At 03:59 PM 4/22/2007, Tony Lee wrote:


>James Annan wrote:
> > James Annan wrote:
> >
> > > Peer review is definitely flawed and IMO best viewed as, like democracy,
> > > merely the least bad of the alternatives.
> >
> > "Flawed" may sound stronger than I meant (which is merely that it
> > doesn't always get things right). I don't offer any solutions, although
> > the EGU system is an interesting one.
> >
> > James
>
>Yes, I also had memories of some incidents in mind -- cold fusion, the
>S Korean human cloning debacle, Soon & Balliunas -- but forged ahead
>with that statement.

The consensus of the scientific community on cold fusion seems
to be that it was all a big mistake - the result of error and
incompetence if not out-right fraud. I am totally convinced that
this consensus is quite incorrect. This is an example of where
science gets it wrong because they refuse to examine the data.

This is relevant to the global warming discussions in two ways.
First, there will come a time when the scientific community has
to admit that they were just plain wrong to ridicule cold fusion.
I don't know when this will occur, but it might be relatively soon.
When this happens, the global warming
skeptics/deniers/delusionists will love it. People will be asking,
"If the scientists were so dreadfully wrong about cold fusion,
why should we believe their "consensus" about global warming?"
Few members of the general public will understand that global
warming is a subject where science has thoroughly examined
the data but cold fusion is a subject where the data had been
ignored and denied.

The second relevance to global warming is of course that cold
fusion has the potential to provide a new source of energy.
Of course, I don't know when or if this might occur.

When subjects such as cold fusion (and certain others) are
mentioned, the typical response of members of the scientific
community is to refuse to take it seriously. When evidence is
pointed out to them, they refuse to "waste" their time by looking
at it because they "know" that it is nonsense. In case anyone
reading this is inclined to be a bit more open-minded, the
following provides some pointers to information on the subject.

Better terms for the "cold fusion" phenomenon would be Low
Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) or Chemically Assisted
Nuclear Reactions (CANR). A good place to start on learning
more about the subject is the LENR-CANR website:

http://www.lenr-canr.org/

This website includes a library containing a large number of
technical papers on the subject. The "News" page contains a
summary of news items:

http://www.lenr-canr.org/News.htm

The most recent entry concerns the presentation of cold fusion
papers at the American Physical Society conference and the
American Chemical Society conference last month. This
also includes links to videos of some of these presentations.
An article on the Chemistry World website discusses the
invited symposium at the ACS conference:

Cold fusion back on the menu
http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2007/March/22030701.asp

There are a number of books on the subject. Two that I have
read and would recommend are Nuclear Transmutation: The
Reality of Cold Fusion by Tadahiko Mizuno and Excess Heat:
Why Cold Fusion Research Prevailed by Charles G. Beaudette.
Nuclear Transmutation is more technically-oriented and Excess
Heat is a mostly non-technical book that includes more discussion
of the history and politics of the subject. Selected pages from
both of these books are available on the LENR-CANR website.

Another book is Cold Fusion and the Future by Jed Rothwell.
This is available as an e-book PDF file on the LENR-CANR
website. I haven't read this yet, but it appears to discuss
implications of cold fusion.

I see that a new book by Edmund Storms will be published in
the next few months. The title is The Science of Low Energy
Nuclear Reaction: A Comprehensive Compilation of Evidence
and Explanation about Cold Fusion. I expect that this is
certain to be a good book. Storms is one of the well-known
and credible researchers in the field. Here is a brief description
of his background from his website:

------------
http://home.netcom.com/~storms2/index.html

Edmund Storms obtained a Ph.D. in radiochemistry from
Washington University (St. Louis) and is retired from the Los
Alamos National Laboratory after thirty-four years of service.
His work there involved basic research in the field of high
temperature chemistry as applied to materials used in nuclear
power and propulsion reactors, including studies of the "cold
fusion" effect. Over seventy reviewed publications and
monographs resulted from this work as well as several books,
all describing an assortment of material properties. He presently
lives in Santa Fe where he is investigating the "cold fusion"
effect in his own laboratory. These studies have resulted in
sixteen presentations to various conferences including the
ACS and APS. In addition, twenty-one papers have been
published including three complete scientific reviews of the
field, one published in 1991, another in 1996 and the latest one
in 1998. A critical evaluation of the Pons-Fleichmann Effect
was published in 2000. In May 1993, he was invited to testify
before a congressional committee about the "cold fusion" effect
In 1998, Wired magazine honored him as one of 25 people who
are making significant contributions to new ideas.
-----------

Storms is the author of "A Student's Guide to Cold Fusion:"

http://www.lenr-canr.org/StudentsGuide.htm

The following 1998 article is a good non-technical discussion of
the subject:

What If Cold Fusion is Real?
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.11/coldfusion.html

A 38-minute version of the 1999 video "Cold Fusion: Fire From
Water" is available on Google video:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6426393169641611451&q=COLD+FUSION&hl=en

Jim


Rob Jacob

unread,
May 1, 2007, 12:51:43 AM5/1/07
to globalchange

Jim,

In response to your initial post, scientists need to communicate
science by talking scientifically: sticking to facts. Now there's a
lot to learn there in terms of knowing your audience, treating them
with respect and understanding how some scientific terms, like
"theory" are understood in the public. But facts are facts, the
public relies on scientists for them and scientists give up that
credibility at their peril. More on my blog:
http://climatespin.blogspot.com/2007/04/thinking-about-framing-science-dont.html

For your second post: cold fusion has long been known to be indeed
cold, but not fusion and not a source of energy for our modern
society. See DOE's report:
http://www.science.doe.gov/Sub/Newsroom/News_Releases/DOE-SC/2004/low_energy/index.htm

Rob Jacob

Jim Torson

unread,
May 1, 2007, 10:49:34 PM5/1/07
to global...@googlegroups.com
At 09:51 PM 4/30/2007, Rob Jacob wrote:

>For your second post: cold fusion has long been known to be indeed
>cold, but not fusion and not a source of energy for our modern
>society. See DOE's report:
>http://www.science.doe.gov/Sub/Newsroom/News_Releases/DOE-SC/2004/low_energy/index.htm
>
>Rob Jacob

I am well aware of the DOE report. Here's a discussion of it
that includes some critiques:

2004 DoE Review of Cold Fusion
http://www.lenr-canr.org/Collections/DoeReview.htm

As I said, I am convinced that the scientific community is
ignoring and denying the evidence of an anomalous phenomenon.

Jim

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