Wednesday, February 19, 2014

There are No 'Dogged Contrarians' In Science

It is too bad that the Michael Mann v Mark Steyn case doesn't involve Shirley Temple or Buddy Epsen -- where clearly Steyn's real passions lie. Steyn might then actually have a chance of winning.

Unfortunately for him, it's about defamation and it's about science, about which Steyn knows little. And he demonstrates this with every post he makes on scientific topics.

For example, the other day he wrote
Science advances through dogged contrarians testing the "settled science", not through glassy-eyed consensus acolytes prostrating themselves before "one proven answer".
This is just wrong. Worse, it's silly.

Science does not advance by testing "settled science." There are no scientists today testing Newton's laws with ever more precise micrometers. Geologists do not repeatedly do analyses to confirm or deny the theory of plate tectonics. No one is yet again measuring the mass of the electron, to be sure it's isn't wildly different from the consensus number.

Science advances by testing the edges of knowledge, where things are still not settled. Scientists -- real scientists -- accept the existence of, say, he greenhouse effect -- because that's what the evidence shows. They aren't endlessly verifying its existence or replicating the evidence for it -- what would be the point, any more than doing endless lab bench experiments on colliding marbles to see if energy is conserved.

In fact, there are essentially no "dogged contrarians" (Steyn's term) in science, because they invariably look like poseurs and fools and real scientists don't have time for such people. Because such people aren't intellectually serious.

Being a good scientist is, to a very significant degree, about knowing where to look for problems -- about understanding what has been proven, and then going to its edge to test and probe for weaknesses, deviations, and new phenomena. But these only occur at the edge of scientific knowledge, never at the middle of scientific knowledge.    

This is a very real and very large part of why science has been so successful for the last 400 years -- when it knows something, it knows it. It doesn't spend endless time repeatedly confirming old knowledge, as if the second law of thermodynamics is true only by opinion, like what is the best Frank Sinatra song. Opinions change. Bodies of scientific knowledge don't.

This is something contrarians usually get wrong. Michael Crichton liked to say that consensus had no place in science. Wrong! There is consensus all over science -- about Newton's Laws of Motion, the Laws of Thermodynamics, the existence of quarks, the basics of radiative transfer, and countless other things.

If there is new knowledge to be found, it will be at the edges of existing knowledge, not at its middle. Maybe Newton's laws don't hold over scales larger than galactic. Maybe quarks behave unusually at very high densities of quark-gluon plasmas. Maybe internal climate variablity occurs a little more rapidly than models simulate.

But the basics are sound. Ken Caldeira said recently,  "...we have as much confidence in the basic climate science as we have in the fundamental science of plate tectonics or biological evolution." Go to any science conference, and you will hear what scientists are talking about -- it certainly isn't an endless rehashing of the basics.

There is consensus about the basics: CO2 is a strong greenhouse gas. It causes at least 2 C of warming when doubled. 2 C is a lot of warming.

This is the "settled science." And what's unsettled -- perhaps, as many lines of evidence suggest, equilibrium climate sensitivity is more like 3 C, or even larger -- isn't necessarily reassuring. Uncertainty cuts both ways, and its error bars are far more serious than those on Shirley Temple's greatness.


drrjv said...

Didn't Einstein blow Newtonian physics out of the water so to speak. Who was it that the time who said everything in physics have been already discovered?

Unknown said...

Mark is going to win his case. I read the complaint yesterday, and it is quite silly. For one thing it reads like an National Enquirer article not a well pled complaint.

For one, Mann should be careful about alleging a slander case based on alleged accusations of misrepresentation when in the complaint itself he misrepresents himself as a Nobel prize winner!

And I can't want to hear Mann prove his case that he suffered "extreme emotional distress."

Gerard Harbison said...

Alan Feduccia is a classic example of a dogged contrarian in science. He's a very well regarded expert who has a completely unorthodox view of the evolution of birds.

And, the 'mass of the electron' analogy is just silly. There is no a priori theory that gives the mass of the electron, which is being continually remeasured (another report today, actually). Less than six months ago G was remeasured at 2 sigma above the CODATA value. Etc.

Douglas B. Levene said...

"Without any feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 would warm the globe around 1°C." I think most people agree that CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas, compared to H2O and methane, and that without feedback loops, the increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere would not be a big deal. Of course, it's the nature and extent of those feedback loops that is so "unsettled."

Unknown said...

What you fail to appreciate is not whether the science is settled or not but whether as Americans we can say whatever we want on any topic. This is called freedom my man. And if Mann were a man he would realize that the more certain he is the less he has to fear about what is said about him or his theories. Do scientist really fall into that category that has to run to Mommy to protect them from their big bad bully critics? Wow.

David Appell said...

electron, G: slight tweaks on observational data. Happens every day in science.

David Appell said...

Didn't Einstein blow Newtonian physics out of the water so to speak.

No he didn't. Newtonian physics is used every day, to launch satellites, design bridges, and calculate eclipses.

NASA used Newtonian physics to get to the Moon. And back.

Einstein only replaced Newtonian physics are very high velocities and in very strong gravitational fields. For all of ordinary space and time, Einstein's theory and Newton's theory are indistinguishable.

David Appell said...

Of course, it's the nature and extent of those feedback loops that is so "unsettled."

Not so much. Feedbacks happen. You can't explain anything in climate science without them. The history of Earth's climate clearly requires them. Paleoclimate gives enough information to infer equilibrium climate sensitivity is about 3 C, viz. we don't even need climate models to be concerned about our emissions, we just need to read past climate and why it changed.

David Appell said...

For Feduccia to be the kind of contrarian Steyn has in mind, or you typical climate contrarian, he would have to deny evolution, not particular details of its mechanisms for a relatively small subset of living things.

Not, of course, that his work isn't important. But it doesn't rise to the level of "dogged contrarian" in the climate sense.

J Melcher said...

Pardon me, but assuming Michael Mann and co-authors are correct, (which stipulation I reserve the right to revoke at any moment) isn't Mann himself a contemporary example of a dogged contrarian overturning the long-held consensus regarding the so-called Medieval Warm Period postulated by Hubert Lamb and agreed to by like 97% or so(earlier) eminent climatologists? From the IPCC First Report (FAR) back into the history of science, the consensus seemed to be that the era about AD 1000 to AD 1300 was "warmer" (whatever that means) than the following "little ice age" between AD 1400 and AD 1800, and that "now" was again "warm". EVERYBODY tended to agree with Lamb and his acolytes up until Mann and company "doggedly" promoted a new historical temperature profile that flattened the "stick" of temperature profiles of the past 1000 years (leaving AD 1100 and AD 1700 about the same level of "warm") and raising the profile of "now" into a sharply rising blade of accelerating warming. Contrary to the prevailing consensus, Mann published, promoted, advocated, enlisted allies, and otherwise "doggedly" over-turned the consensus of his discipline.

And yet you argue that such reformers do not exist, and that such reforms in scientific understanding likewise do not exist.

Who, exactly, is the denier in this case?

J Melcher said...

I request leave to revise and extend my previous remark:

I had stipulated that IF Mann was right, his feat of overturning the Hubert Lamb consensus of climate profiles with Mann's "Hockey Stick" new-consensus profile, etc.

Upon further thought I would like to amend the claim such that Mann's historical profile or stick doesn't have to be assumed correct. He doggedly reformed his discipline, whether or not his discipline, in the next few years, continues to promote the hockey stick, or repudiates it.

David Appell said...

J Melcher: There was certainly no "long-held consensus" about the Medieval Warm Period postulated by Hubert Lamb. In fact, Lamb's data didn't extend beyond Europe.

Show us what data existed during Lamb's time that was evidence for a global MWP....

David Appell said...

J. Melcher: Actually, Mann et al's "hockey stick" work has by now been confirmed and replicated by many different groups, some using independent mathematical techniques:

“A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years,” Marcott et al, Science v339 n6124 pp 1198-1201, March 8, 2013

"Continental-scale temperature variability during the past two millennia," PAGES 2k Consortium, Nature Geosciences, April 21, 2013

A confirmation using a different statistical technique was Tingley and Huybers, reported on here:

"Novel Analysis Confirms Climate "Hockey Stick" Graph," Scientific American, November 2009, pp 21-22.

David Appell said...

EVERYBODY tended to agree with Lamb and his acolytes

Really? Prove it.

Then show us the Lamb-era data for a global MWP.

Gerard Harbison said...

So if 2 standard deviations is a 'slight tweak', what happens if we apply a 'slight tweak' downwards to IPCC AR5 equilibrium climate sensitivity?

Gerard Harbison said...

A whole lot of people whom you would class as 'skeptics' if not 'deniers' would no more deny the greenhouse effect than Feduccia would deny evolution.

It would really help you to read more extensively on the history of science, and particularly Thomas Kuhn. Yes, science proceeds a great deal of the time as 'settled science', subject to minor tweaks, but it does also sometimes shift tectonically (pun intended).

And science does have 'dogged contrarians', even ones who were vindicated. Boltzmann was one such. Atomic theories were unpopular to the point of being counter-consensual as late as the turn of the 20th century. The leading lights of German physics thought that stat. mech. and even the kinetic theory of gases were bunk. Ostwald was part of that consensus, and won the Nobel Prize in 1909, well after Einstein had put paid to the anti-atomists.

I agree the inherent conservatism of science is usually a feature, not a bug, but it's foolish to deny it sometimes has malign effects.

David Appell said...

Accuracy vs. precision. The error bars for CODATA 2010 and BIPM 2013 do not overlap, but the measured value for G varies between 6.6720 and 6.6760 (x10^-11 MKS units). Climate science would be lucky to have such problems.

David Appell said...

Fred Singer isn't Boltzmann.

iOpener said...

"There are no scientists today testing Newton's laws with ever more precise micrometers."

Then drrjv points out you're wrong, then you weasel back with "Einstein only replaced Newtonian physics are very high velocities and in very strong gravitational field"

Which is exactly, 100%, testing Newtonian physics with a more precise micrometer. Or perhaps macrometer. Whatevs, you weaseled.

And some of the lads and lassies have had some pretty clever quantum doubts about all that Einsteinian "God don't play no stinking dice with the universe" thing.

I almost hate coming here, it's embarrassing to see an adult male pulling down his intellectual pants so often, only to reveal wee willie winkie.

David Appell said...

Einstein didn't arrive at general relativity through any deficiencies in Newton's laws, he arrived at it by extending the reasoning of special relativity to arbitrary reference frames. Only afterward did he find it explained the shift in Mercury's perihelion.

Any more ad hominen remarks and your comment will be removed.

Lars said...

He wouldn't have to resort to saying such things if he had anything substantive to contribute, David.

Haven't seen a reference to Gallileo yet. They're getting more sophisticated. Thomas Kuhn. My oh my.

whitetower said...

Michael Mann is about the farthest thing from Isaac Newton as can be imagined. Closer to a homeopathy treatment salesman.

Unknown said...

There is a level of delusion among the true believer crowd that is down right bizarre. You'd have to be stupid to think that Mann has any chance of winning this case.

The delusion comes from this: climate change advocates have created for themselves a sound proof echo chamber and then believe that the only opinions that exist are the ones bouncing around that echo chamber.

The advocates need to go outside more and listen to what people really think about them and their settled science. Because you got one liberal judge to agree to hear the case doesn't equal victory for Mann who still has a major hill to climb to prove that first, he was defamed; second, it was the intention to defame him; third, that he suffered something due to this defamation.

Why is it that climate scientists are so quick to tell everyone how smart they are, but then say and do the dumbest things?

Unknown said...

Just a quick note that has nothing to do with the merits of either side of the case. Just addressing this statement:

"Science does not advance by testing "settled science." There are no scientists today testing Newton's laws with ever more precise micrometers. Geologists do not repeatedly do analyses to confirm or deny the theory of plate tectonics. No one is yet again measuring the mass of the electron, to be sure it's isn't wildly different from the consensus number."

That's not true at all. It's called education and every student and teacher who studies physics, chemistry or any other hard science regularly puts those laws, theories and hypotheses to the test daily. It's part of the process of becoming a scientist. (And there are lots of scientists who dedicate their lives to refining earlier findings to ever more precise degrees.)


David Appell said...

James: Students are learning established science, not testing anything. No one is going to freak out if Susie in her high-school physics lab finds a result that differs from Newton.

David Appell said...

You'd have to be stupid to think that Mann has any chance of winning this case.

I see no way to read the judge's last ruling and conclude Mann doesn't have a chance. In fact, the judge ruling is an admission that he does.

David Appell said...

The advocates need to go outside more and listen to what people really think about them and their settled science.

Go where, exacdtly?

Unknown said...

Sorry, but that's absolutely incorrect. Science learning is about testing the boundaries of "established" science. Does anyone really think Susie is going to find something different? No. But the experiments are still tested. And I guarantee that if Susie does find something that can be verified by other scientists (because she publishes her original data and the experiment can be replicated), then yes, everyone would care. It happens all the time, too. (Well, not Newtonian physics, perhaps, but some unknown undergrad dis/proving some bit of established science.)

That is how science moves forward. Susie tests Newtonian laws in Physics 101 so she can challenge other "established" science later. That's science: constantly retesting and verifying what we know.

And that's for stuff that can be tested, not models. The idea that a model shouldn't be tested and refined is false on its face. A model is not established. That's why it's a model.


David Appell said...

Happens all the time? Who were the last three "students" to overthrow consensus science? Not find something new on the edge of science -- but overthrow consensus science, on, say, the level of plate tectonics or evolution. Or AGW.

David Appell said...

Susie tests Newtonian laws in Physics 101

Susie lacks the equipment and knowledge to do the kind of precision tests to overthrow Newton's laws. It's hard enough for professional scientists to do it.

Caleb said...


Sorry if I missed it in one of your other blog posts or comments, but what are your thoughts on Michael Mann accusing Judith Curry of being "anti-science"?

If he does indeed get a successful judgement against Steyn et al, wouldn't he immediately expose himself to a defamation claim from Curry based on his own precedent?

How do you feel about the support shown for Steyn et al by organizations such as the ACLU and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press who had filed amicus briefs in support? To most outsiders this is a free speech issue. Clearly these organizations don't care about the science argument, but they see this case as representing a dangerous precedent in limiting free speech on certain issues.

David Appell said...

Caleb, I haven't really come to any conclusion about Mann's comment about Curry. I sometimes have a difficult time figuring out where she's coming from, which sometimes seems to be all over the map (and I've talked to scientists who feel likewise).

I was disappointed to see so many journalist groups and the ACLU file those amicus briefs. It almost seems they don't think anything can be defamatory. I also don't think they understand the science.

Caleb said...


Your request for examples of students who had overthrown consensus science reminded me of this interesting story.

While he only overthrew a few papers in a niche area of psychology, it is an example of a motivated student questioning accepted science and exposing egregious errors that had been overlooked by experts in the field.

Caleb said...


Thanks for your reply. I think it is hard for scientists to realize that this is not (only?) a lawsuit about the science. It's a case involving two public figures in a matter of major political/economic importance.

You are correct that it seems the ACLU does not feel this is defamation. They see a much larger issue than one man's emotional distress at being insulted by an opinion writer. They see the implications for the First Amendment in future cases where the precedent of "official" science being considered a protected area free from public criticism could be very dangerous to your country.

The Judith Curry example highlights the folly of Mann pursuing Steyn et al. There is absolutely no way she can be considered anti-science, no matter how vehemently one disagrees with her. Even if she is quite wrong, she is not anti-science. It is very clearly a defamatory statement, made with malice and knowledge of it's untruth. After all, Michael Mann is an actual scientist, (unlike Steyn), and should know what the implication of such a statement is and what proof he would require to state such a thing. He is wide open to a lawsuit in this case, particularly if he succeeds against Steyn.

Dr. Mann needs to decide if he is a public figure or not (I think it is clear what he has chosen), and act accordingly. He cannot claim the protections afforded to the average anonymous private citizen yet continue to act in the public/political sphere.

David Appell said...

Maybe, if you consider psychology a science.... This one finding does not stand nearly as tall as something like evolution or AGW or the laws of thermodynamics.

Look, there is a huge amount of evidence for (1) warming, and (2) manmade CO2's role in it. It is far better evidence that existed for this finding in psychology. Any new ideas in climate science have to be made in light of its observational evidence, not despite it.

Evolution is a fact. Plate tectonics is a fact. AGW is a fact. There is solid, copious evidence for all of them. AGW isn't just the opinion of a bunch of scientists -- they believe it because the evidence has led them to that conclusion.

If deniers want to overthrow AGW, THEY NEED TO PROVIDE BETTER SCIENCE, not just point to findings in other sciences like psychology or ulcers and say, look, it happened there.

David Appell said...

Caleb, you can't eliminate science from this lawsuit. Steyn said Mann's SCIENCE was fraudulent. Since Steyn (or anyone) has no direct evidence of any personal fraud, they can only point to scientific evidence, and on that ground they will lose.

...where the precedent of "official" science being considered a protected area free from public criticism could be very dangerous to your country.

Bullshit. There has been plenty of public criticism of Mann et al's finding, and he didn't sue then. He didn't sue McIntyre or McKitrick, did he? If he only wanted to squelch criticism, why didn't he?

Legitimate criticism is one thing. Calling someone a "fraud" is an entirely different thing.

David Appell said...

Dr. Mann needs to decide if he is a public figure or not (I think it is clear what he has chosen), and act accordingly.

Doensn't matter. "Fraud" goes directly to his conduct as a scientist.

You can't say anything you want just because someone is a public figure.

Caleb said...


Hustler v. Falwell would disprove your last sentence, given it's lack of context. Is it possible to be a public figure and still retain the protection given to the average private citizen?

From Wikipedia: "... the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress intentionally inflicted upon them."

Further, would a reasonable person take (political writer, stage, screen, and music reviewer, c̶l̶i̶m̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶n̶g̶e̶ ̶e̶x̶p̶e̶r̶t̶) Steyn's statement "Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change “hockey-stick” graph" as a factual claim?

Or put another way, would a reasonable person take (scientist, public figure) Mann's statement with the hashtag #anti-science next to Judith Curry's Senate testimony as a factual claim?

J Melcher said...

I can prove it if you agree to provide a page for the essay.

Again, we are NOT, at the moment, arguing that Lamb is right or Mann is right. We are arguing that Lamb represented a consensus view, and that Mann has (via "dogged contrarian" effort) reformed that consensus.

The data I have easily available shows that the Lamb view on "climate" doesn't express itself in "degrees" so much as in settlement areas, tree line range, sea level, and other archeological evidence. Even so, Lamb does evaluate the more recent "Little Ice Age" in terms of degrees (Celsius) from the earlier and later centuries around it. He also specifies whether his view represents a regional, hemispheric, or global perspective.

Shall I take the trouble to compose the essay, with footnotes, etc?

David Appell said...

J Melcher: You have a page -- this one. Otherwise, start your own blog.

David Appell said...

Caleb: The judge sure feels differently:

"Opinions and rhetorical hyperbole are protected speech under the First Amendment. Arguably, several of defendants’ statements fall into these protected categories. Some of defendants’ statements, however, contain what could reasonably be understood as assertions of fact. Accusing a scientist of conducting his research fraudulently, manipulating his data to achieve a predetermined or political outcome, or purposefully distorting the scientific truth are factual allegations. They go to the heart of scientific integrity. They can be proven true or false. If false, they are defamatory. If made with actual malice, they are actionable. Viewing the allegations of the amended complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a reasonable finder of fact is likely to find in favor of the plaintiff on each of Counts I-VI, including the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress alleged in Count VI as to both sets of defendants."

Caleb said...


"If made with actual malice, they are actionable."

So Michael Mann has to prove that Mark Steyn knew his hyperbolic statement about the hockey stick graph was false.

Good luck with that, since the rest of the content in Steyn's blog post in question dealt with the fact that Mann was "exonerated" by the same organization that had sheltered a convicted child molester.

Obviously, he was making a case that he believed Michael Mann to be a man of questionable character. Right or wrong, this was Steyn's basis for his statement. Thus, malice is disproven in the very blog post in question.

But back to my original question, don't you feel that Michael Mann is setting the precedent for a future Judith Curry lawsuit against himself? Do you feel this is wise on his part? Or is he simply betting that Curry has thicker skin than himself and/or greater respect for the First Amendment? Or is his intent merely to intimidate his critics into using nicer language about him and aim for an out-of-court settlement? If it's the last scenario, then that would almost define a SLAPP, wouldn't it?

Unknown said...

From Wikipedia: '... the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress intentionally inflicted upon them.'

I read that there as well...but my impression was that the stated prohibition was not unqualified but rather referenced alleged "emotional distress" emanating from a "parody" aimed at a public figure.

I'm not sure the prohibition applies to alleged "emotional distress" attributed to social commentary/opinion as well.

Anonymous said...

Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.

Richard Feynman

David Appell said...

Instead of quoting Feynman, contarians should do science like he did.

That, and only that, will win the debate.

Caleb said...


I would still like to know your thoughts on Mann's strategy of creating a legal precedent that can be used against himself. If Mann v. Steyn et al is successful, then a hypothetical Curry v. Mann would have a very high likelihood of success.

Do you feel it was wise of Mann to defame fellow scientist Curry after he had initiated a defamation lawsuit against a journalist? Defaming her with the #anti-science label doesn't seem like a rational action for someone trying to establish legal precedent for defamation of scientists. Especially not when Mann's malice would be much easier to prove.

Either it was a big blunder on his part, or he was never intending to see the lawsuit against Steyn, Simberg, National Review, and CEI through to it's conclusion. Which would prove his critics correct that his lawsuit is a case of SLAPP. At least, that's how it appears to me. Your thoughts?

Lars said...

Actually, David, I believe that tests of at least some basic physical constants go on on a fairly regular basis. Isn't that what they do at national bureaus of standards?

Lars said...

...the precedent of "official" science being considered a protected area free from public criticism...

An interesting disconnection from reality here - as if scientific inquiry could function if there was such a things as "official" science. I get the impression that a lot of the contra-science crowd flocking to Steyn's defence these days were brought up on a certain set of science-fiction tropes from an earlier decade, such as the "lone genius" battling against the "scientific establishment", and who knows, in the end saving us all, despite ourselves, from enslavement by the Mole Men. With the Steyn case, it's being conflated with Free Screech issues, and it's interesting to see the glee with which so many anticipate applying the standards and assumptions of the law to a scientific issue; in other words, well, to establish an "official" science, I guess, one in which legal, ideological and fiscal standards were the ones by which we judged a scientific theory. They're just incapable of seeing this as a case of someone being defamed by another who is simply too ignorant and cant-befuddled to understand that a scientist's reputation for probity as far as collecting, analyzing and reporting data is paramount.

J Melcher said...

Lars refers to: those of us of a certain age reared on ' science-fiction tropes from an earlier decade, such as the "lone genius" battling against the "scientific establishment", and who knows, in the end saving us all, despite ourselves, from enslavement by the Mole Men.'

Oh, guilty as charged. You know, the thrilling serials where Copernicus overturned the Ptolemanics, (aided by his boy side-kick, Kepler) and that wonderful 1980's Spielberg movie where Luis and Walter Alvarez, (in their guise of Star-man and Rocky) fought the Chicxulub boundary creatures and hordes of raving paleontologists to overturn the gradualist conspiracy...

Honestly, we are SUCH fan-boy geeks about these sorts of dogged contrarians!

David, "proof" as requested will run some 500 words or so. (mostly citations to offline print materials of the pre-IPCC era.) You okay with that much bandwidth in your comments section?

Lars said...

Yes, thank you, just what I meant - that sort of simplistic approach to paradigms and their overturn really does belong in the pulps. Not in real life.

David Appell said...

I believe that tests of at least some basic physical constants go on on a fairly regular basis.

Measuring physical constants to another decimal place hardly undoes consensus science. The validity of quantum mechanics does not depend on the exact value of hbar.

David Appell said...

Caleb: My thoughts are the same as earlier:

I'm also not very interested in obsessing about and endlessly analyzing every thing Mann (or anyone) says about anyone else.

J Melcher said...

Hi Lars,

Of course the battle to overthrow a paradigm must reach out to "fans" of science. You can't change the world by preaching only to the anti-science crowd.

So the Alvarez claim regarding asteroidal impact evidence at the K-T fossil boundary layer reached out to the SF fans reading Analog . To be specific:
ANALOG Science Fiction/ Science Fact: March, Mar. 1992: Davis Publications NY. Vol. CXII, No. 4.

An article in their recurring science "fact" pages by Jeffery Kooistra, to be precise.

So between 1980 when the hypothesis was first published in the narrowly targeted journals, and the acceptance of the Alvarez Theory as dogma in 2010, the consensus building mechanisms included the pulps.

Why not?

And how is this different from have David Attenborough's TV show weigh in on the shift from old style climate theory to the newer, Mann-hockey-stick based "unprecedented" claim?

Building a consensus means reaching out beyond the original research community. Mann did that. He was key to helping the IPCC do that.

Why do so many of you resist given Mann the credit he is due?

Caleb said...


Thanks for clarifying your answer. I guess "I haven't really come to any conclusion" is better than no reply at all.

I'm not obsessing about every little thing Michael Mann says about everyone, just one key and probably defamatory statement he made.

I'm just trying to figure out how it fits into his overall strategy to protect his reputation. Obviously someone as smart as Mann wouldn't make an unforced mistake like that unless he thought it couldn't hurt him.

Seems like he may have been expecting to settle out of court with the defendants. In which case, he really didn't do his homework on Mark Steyn. If he wins against Steyn for labeling the hockey stick "fraudulent", then he exposes himself to a lawsuit from an annoyed Curry for labeling her "anti-science".

I just don't see this situation as producing a net positive outcome for Michael Mann in any scenario at this point. Steyn will not settle, and he will either win his case or become a martyr to skeptics everywhere, both of which are positive outcomes for him.

Steyn has every incentive (including a large grassroots base of support that can raise funds as needed) to fight until the bitter end. His counter-suit against Mann is an example of this, as he has now forced the process into the courtroom, taking control of the case from Mann's team.

J Melcher said...


In working up the proof (my side of the debate being that there ARE "contrarians" in science) it would be useful for all of us to agree on what is meant by the "consensus".

Do you insist upon a formal Gallup-style opinion poll, or some sort of vote in a large body of scientists, in order to justify such a claim?

Or, as in the debate within Archeology on the "Clovis First" hypotheis, (as described on Wiki, here: is a "consensus" functionally and rhetorically the same as "predominant hypothesis among [scientists]in the latter half of the 20th century ...[with the] primary support for this [being] that no solid evidence of [contrary data] had been found."

brackets indicate paraphrase to generalize a specific example of a "consensus" and its "contrarians" to a general case.

By the way, I don't keep count of how many different disciplines and researchers I have mentioned here as "contrarians" but I do notice you keep coming back to the climate war hobby horse. Do you really want your own reputation as pro-science to depend on defending the original claim? If so, I want to be sure I understand that claim specifically. (I reserve the right to revoke my disagreement if you specify a less remarkable and ridiculous version of your assertion that no dogged contrarians exist in "science" -- another term it might be useful for you to define, as you use it, more specifically. )

David Appell said...

Caleb: I thought Tamino raised some very poignant questions about Curry's recent Congressional testimony on sea level:

She said:

"...the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s."

I do not think that's what the science says, at all, and I have yet to see a good response from her.

AnkhDjedSeneb said...

My favourite contrarian was Chandrasekhar vs Eddington.

Also, Steyn does see this as a battle for Free Speech - scientific Free Speech no less. They key concept here is the "Lysenkoism" in the Soviet Union:

Which scientist thinks it is a good idea that courts should settle what is "settled science" and what is not? or who may or may not comment about the science? or what they may say?

If someone believes that a scientist may have been fraudulent in their practice are they permitted to mention it, even if the statement is wrong but made without malice? In Mann's case, surely Mann could simply have provided his source observations and methodology so they could examined by neutral observers and the truth of the claim could be settled?

Does this not sound like a better correct approach?

If it is, then why does Mann refuse to provide his source observations and detail his methodology for everyone to follow. This is what I would do, and see it as a duty of any scientist.

nb: the truth or falsehood of AGW is not being questioned here.

Anonymous said...

I have no desire to flame, but your comments about what science is and isn't are silly - Do you have any scientific training?

Back in 1979, Thomas Kuhn's "The structure of scientific revolutions" was already required reading for science and engineering majors at the Univ of Michigan, where I studied.

I'd encourage you to read it. No disrespect intended.

David Appell said...

Joe: Yes, I have scientific training:

Do you?

Yes, I've read Kuhn, like everyone else. In Kuhn's sense, the revolution in climate science happened in the mid-to-late 1800s, when the absorption properties of CO2 were measured and those properties applied to climate. Probably again in the satellite era when the observational data became much much wider and more detailed.

There will never -- never -- be a "revolution" in climate sciene that finds CO2 isn't a major player in climate -- just as there will never be a revolution that overthrows the laws of thermodynamics. There is consensus on both of these hypotheses. Like I wrote in my post, there are (and will continue to be) questions about how much warming occurs in what time frame, but that's around the edges -- the warming potential of CO2 is very well understood because it's applied physics that's been understood for about a hundred years.

TarzanaJoe said...

You all seem like very brilliant men. But the point is I have a right to say God created the universe even if I don't have a footnote for it. And you have a right to ridicule me as someone who believes in Santa Claus in the sky. I may be hurt by your taunts but I shouldn't take you to court because that's not the place to decide this kind of dispute. By the way, are you saying there is only settled science and the unknowable?

David Appell said...

"By the way, are you saying there is only settled science and the unknowable?"


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