Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Roy Spencer's Peptic Ulcers

Roy Spencer has a post up where he writes:
"I prefer to compare us [John Christy and he] to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who rejected the scientific consensus that peptic ulcers were due to too much stress or spicy food."
I hear this from contrarians a lot. It refers to the finding by Marshall and Warren that peptic ulcers weren't caused by stress or food, as was once thought, but by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. It's also a favorite talking point of Oregon's resident climate denier, Gordon Fulks (here, here, here).

It seems that Spencer and Fulks think the peptic ulcer example shows that any and all consensus is science is wrong -- or, at least, the couple of consensuses they disagree with. (Perhaps it also means they think they deserve a Nobel Prize, as was shared by Marshall and Warren in 2005.)

If Roy Spencer or Gordon Fulks wants to disprove AGW, or show it's not a serious concern, they have to show why it's not a serious concern. With evidence and with science. That's all. But they can't simply refer to some historical scientific idea that was disproven as if it gives their claims about AGW any weight. It doesn't.

There is no disproof by proxy. If contrarians want to prevail in the debate, they need to produce evidence and science that is convincing. Not just convincing to them -- because it's too easy to fool oneself -- or to just their buddies who all live in the same bubble -- but convincing to the scientific community. That has worked in science since it began -- indeed, it's how the peptic ulcer claims themselves were corrected -- by hard work, better evidence, and superior science.

Graph (mis)titled by Roy Spencer

PS: And there's also this. In a recent post, Spencer puts up a graph he's titled himself, using the words "global warming or global cooling." But look at the fine print -- the graph is for the extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere. In fact, from the paper's abstract, it only pertains to the region from 30 N latitude. That's not the globe -- it's only one-quarter of the globe (25%)!

The title Spencer choose is misleading (at best.)

I see these kind of shenanigans again and again on his blog. He's certainly not going to disprove any theories of peptic ulcers with this kind of work.


Unknown said...

It is very hard to say find any signs that Roy Spencer's main loyalty is to his profession, rather than his politics. Surely most scientists with conservative politics would still adhere to professional ethics over their political allegiances.

Here's a question -I figure that given your background you are likely to know, David - has anyone done a survey of climate scientists to see what the distribution of their political views is, and whether it differs much from the general population?

Lars Karlsson said...

Why doesn't Spencer refer to the PAGES 2K global reconstruction? Ljungqvist, who was behind the NH extra-tropical reconstruction that Spencer showed, contributed to PAGES 2K too.

jqb said...

Spencer displays the usual immense intellectual dishonesty of climate science deniers. There's a huge difference between a widely held but largely unexamined view of the causes of a phenomenon when the primary cause has not yet been discovered, and the massive amounts of evidence for AGW. And Marshall and Warren were not contrarians, they simply made a discovery. Once their evidence was available, it was fairly quickly embraced by the scientific community.

jqb said...

"Surely most scientists with conservative politics would still adhere to professional ethics over their political allegiances."

What is called "conservative" these days is incompatible with the intellectual honesty that science requires.

"has anyone done a survey of climate scientists to see what the distribution of their political views is and whether it differs much from the general population?"

Only 6% of American scientists, generally, identify as Republicans (56% identify as Democrats). Climate scientists are probably similarly distributed.

David Appell said...

Mark, here's a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2009:


They found a breakdown of the scientists they polled as follows, with the numbers in parantheses for the public as a whole:

Conservative: 9% (26%)
Moderate: 35% (38%)
Liberal: 52% (20%)
Very Liberal: 14% (5%)

Unknown said...

Thankyou David, much obliged.

EliRabett said...

Here is an idle thought. From early on (say 1950/1960 Republican have belittled science and scientists (pointy headed, etc.) One could point to this as responsible for the political orientation of scientists.

David Appell said...

Ha -- I like that, Eli.