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A vivid demonstration of knee-jerk science rejection

Posted on 8 September 2012 by John Cook

This week, I decided to test the hypothesis that the rejection of climate science is an instinctive, knee-jerk reaction. It was inspired in part by recent events. Just before Arctic sea ice fell to record low levels, Steven Mosher predicted five ways that people would avoid the inevitable implications of the precipitous drop in Arctic sea ice. Anthony Watts promptly fulfilled all five predictions. In another ironic twist, the reaction to recent research linking climate denial to conspiracy ideation has been a gush of conspiracy theories.

So I wrote an article for The Conversation listing the various methods employed to reject climate science where I discussed the psychological phenomenon of confirmation bias and how it leads to these specific methods. In the conclusion, I predicted that the tell-tale signs of confirmation bias would appear in the comment threads:

Look for cherry picking, conspiracy theories, comments magnifying the significance of dissenters (or non-experts) and logical fallacies such as non sequiturs.

Now you might think, with prior warning, that those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change would seek to make a liar out of me and thwart my predictions. However, my expectation was they wouldn't be able to help themselves. Ideologically driven science rejection is a knee-jerk, instinctive reaction. How did my prediction pan out? Let's go through the list:

Cherry Picking

I first explained how we identify cherry picking, providing the example of global cooling (with a link to Dana's celebrated Escalator):

The most common manifestation of confirmation bias is cherry picking, where one carefully selects a small piece of data that paints a friendly picture and overlooks any inconvenient evidence. How do we spot cherry picking? It’s important to remember that there is no “their evidence” versus “our evidence”. There is only the full body of evidence. If someone arrives at a conclusion from carefully selected evidence that contradicts the conclusion drawn from the full body of evidence, that’s cherry picking.

Cherry pickers ignore the fact that our planet is currently building up heat at the stunning rate of around 3 Hiroshima bombs per second. Instead, they focus on short periods of the surface temperature record. This record bounces up and down from year to year as the ocean exchanges heat with the atmosphere, meaning that it’s possible to find any short period during a long-term warming trend where temperatures fall briefly. Meanwhile the planet continues to build up heat – around 250 Hiroshima bombs worth since you started reading this article.

Almost immediately, examples of cherry picking began to appear. Amazingly, the same cherry picking example I highlighted in my article appeared frequently (familiarity backfire effect?):

"The atmosphere seems not to have warmed for 15 years... The ocean temperature seems also to have stabilised "

"Its is interesting given that planet has been cooling since 2001, yet a rise in CO2."

"...global temps have not not risen significantly for some years now."

Conspiracy theories

When you disagree with a consensus of scientists based upon a preponderance of evidence, the inevitable destination is conspiracy theory. I discussed different types of conspiracy theories, from one-world goverment plans to scientists who are in it for the money:

So how can ignoring the 97% be justified? Two words: conspiracy theory. There are a range of conspiracy theories out there, from sinister attempts to control the planet with a one world government to claims that virtually every climate scientist on the planet is falsifying their data for financial reasons, a form of global groupthink.

True to form, these exact conspiracy theories were proposed, as well as a number of others:

"On the alleged nuttiness of 'conspiracy theorists', you are on even shakier ground, as Australia's eminence grise of Climate Action Now! advocacy IS a one-world government plotter. His name is Bob Brown."

"Alarmism is great, if you are on the payroll, eh?"

"...peer review is somewhat overrated. All you need is a editor who is an AGW symphatiser and you can get almost anything published."

" There are prominent scientists who are outraged at those scientists manipulating the data and creating the hockey stick."

Magnifying dissenters and non-experts

Another sign of confirmation bias is magnifying the importance of fake experts or the small minority of dissenters whom you agree with:

Confirmation bias also influences which sources of information we put our trust in. People tend to attribute greater expertise to people who share their values and beliefs. We’re drawn to those who tell us what we want to hear. So what happens when 97 out of 100 of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming? Those who reject the scientific consensus lavish their attention on the 3% minority, magnifying their significance and turning a blind eye to the 97% of scientific experts.

Consequently we saw appeals to those handful of dissenting climate scientists and  scientists with no actual published climate research:

"Moreover, the following IPCC recognised panel scientists, all oppose the mainstream accuracy of the IPCC climate projections, namely Freeman Dyson, Professor Emeritus of the School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study; Fellow of the Royal Society, Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the National Academy of Sciences, Nils-Axel Mörner, retired head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University, former Chairman of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (1999–2003), and author of books supporting the validity of dowsing, Garth Paltridge, retired Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research and retired Director of the Institute of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre, Visiting Fellow ANU, Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London, Hendrik Tennekes, retired Director of Research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, among others."

"I think the views of Ian Plimer, John Christie and Richard Linzden should be validated by those who believe in true scientific study."

"Freeman Dyson arguably the world's greatest living scientist"

Logical Fallacies

I discussed logical fallacies, concentrating on the non sequitur fallacy, where the conclusion is not supported by the premise. I used two examples of this fallacy: past climate change and Arctic sea ice:

A common logical fallacy employed by climate contrarians is the “non sequitur”, Latin for “it does not follow”. This applies to arguments where the stated conclusion is not supported by its premise.

The most cited example is “climate has changed naturally in the past therefore current warming must be natural”.

A recent variant argues, in response to this year’s record low in Arctic sea ice, that ice has been low in the past. This is logically equivalent to investigating a corpse with a gunshot wound and ruling out murder because people have died from natural causes before.

What followed were non sequiturs on these very two topics:

"Decreasing Arctic pack ice might indeed be a symptom of AGW, but if this event has regularly occurred in the last 2000 years then until we are certain that we understand what was driving the previous cyclical disappearance of pack ice, how can we rule out that the same factors are not driving it now?"

"In fact the planet has been warming since the mini ice age, and there were no SUVs back then!"

Why bother doing this? Not for fun (that was just a bonus). To effectively reduce the influence of misinformation, you need to provide an alternate explanation. Explaining why and how people reject the science can be an important part of this alternative narrative. To achieve this, we need to understand both the techniques of denial and the psychology of confirmation bias that drives the denial.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 149:

  1. @49 Lambda 3.0 However thankless and tiring it may be, it is important to rebut the denialists. Any wrong or misleading arguments used by denialists should be rationally corralled, lest they infect the unwary "Cautious" ... and outright conversion of denialists to Warmism is not unheard of.
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  2. I have read with interest the continuing discussion with Eric (skeptic) and his obsession with models. Forgive me, but I always thought that models are used to predict stuff. If the prediction eventuates, then we can have faith in the science and assumptions used in that model. By necessity, due to uncertainties in current knowledge and limitations in computing power, the models cannot predict reality entirely, but they are useful in projecting trends, and we need this to try to predict any consequences of continuing CO2 build up. Eric seems to have things precisely ass-backwards. What he is essentially saying is, forget all the overwhelming evidence we have now for AGW. Unless the models can accurately predict all this evidence (to his own arbitrary standards), we can't be sure that it is happening. Or did I miss something?
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  3. chuck101@52 You got it essentially right. Furthermore, if you follow the link in JohnMashey@43, you better understand the differences between the problems answered by weather vs. climate simulations. The problems of climate (the changes in the average state of chaotic processes) prediction is not limitted by model accuracy in representing the chaotic processes. What is important is getting the roundings correct (e.g. to have constant mass and energy balance) and the model stability within given boundaries in accordance with observations. Accurate representation of the dynamics of the chaos is less important. As an example, Eric wants the models to calculate dynamic convections to have faith that cloud feedback is well represented. I argue that such calculations, apart from increasing the complexity and be source of potential bugs, may not increase models' reliability more than simple parametrisation tuned with observations would do. Eric displays a typical skeptisism of a weatherman: lack of confidence in simple science about average conditions, because he's an acclaimed expert in underlying dynmical models. A simplified analogy would be: to figure out the average properties of some gas in a container, an expert weatherman might ponder about (or even calculate) the resulting fluid motions, but I don't want to go into such details: simple laws of thermodynamics are enough.
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  4. 52, chuck101. You didn't miss anything. It's "focused denial" dressed up as rational skepticism.
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  5. Thanks for the in depth explanation chriskoz, though I think there is a simpler underlying psychological process going on here. Eric views himself as a rational skeptic, and would be embarrassed to get lumped in with the standard denialist crowd. Hence, he claims that he accepts the 97% scientific consensus. EXCEPT. Except that he won't until some arbitrary milepost of his own specification is met, which it wont be, at least for a decade or two. This allows him to present himself as rational, sane and objective, while still denying the consensus for the next 10 to 20 years. A denier in denial. Nice Work! Self contradiction appears also to be necessary for an accomplished denialist: http://www.skepticalscience.com/plimervsplimer.php
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  6. Shorter Eric: Humanity's saviour is low CS-inducing Arctic dust. Until that's all modelled I don't credit a thing.
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  7. As important, if not more, is the ability of models to help us understand stuff.
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  8. Eli, But we can't understand stuff from models because we don't understand enough stuff to build models that are good enough to help us understand stuff. Or so Eric seems to think.
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  9. Chuck101, the main reason for my focus is so there can be a discussion, although it's very difficult for me to avoid tangents into attribution, costs, mitigation, etc. The 97% includes models, but model treatments vary along with the result (Greenland melting versus Amazon drought versus storminess). chriskoz (and JohnMashey), the average conditions and dynamics are linked to each other. It's ok to put the average conditions from empirical data into a model parameter, but the conditions will change the dynamics downstream (time or location). For example we all agree that measurements show that CAPE is increasing on average and high CAPE will help sustain an MCS like the derecho that hit my area at the end of June. Along with such severe weather I am interested in how much negative feedback is caused by that severe weather if in fact it increases on average. That is where I do not believe the models have the fidelity to make an accurate projection. By fidelity I mean that the model need not predict anything correctly but must result in an accurate climatology that is an essential input to the energy balance calculation.
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  10. Eric@59 "the average conditions and dynamics are linked to each other ...yet you do not need to be able to predict every single drop of the ball on a roulette wheel in order to be able to predict how to set the odds so that your casino makes money. You are completely failing to recognize that long-term statistics of the system (either the real world, or a model of that world) are sensitive to different things within the system, compared to what the short-term patterns depend on. You desperately need to learn something more about systems. From what you have written, I do not think you understand what "initial value problem" and "boundary value problem" mean (from John's comment), and why the distinction is important. This seems to be a very common error that I see in people that come to climatology from a meteorology background (not that I'm saying this means anything about your background).
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  11. Let's get this discussion back on topic. If Eric wants to participate, he can try to explain how his reactions here differ from the "knee-jerk science rejection" that headlines John's original post. Eric, your position is at odds with all of the science. The details of what you disagree with and why are not relevant in this discussion. What is relevant is how your behavior closely fits the pattern of what John Cook describes.
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  12. "That is where I do not believe the models have the fidelity to make an accurate projection." On the other hand, you're certain that *you* have the "fidelity" to claim a climate sensitivity on the order of 1C per CO2 doubling. This is an interesting asymmetry I see all the time in the denialsphere - everything claimed by climate science is far more uncertain than climate science claims. Yet the denialist is 100% certain that feedbacks are overwhelmingly negative (look at your latest, Eric - "Along with such severe weather I am interested in how much negative feedback is caused by that severe weather if in fact it increases on average" - the rest of us might first be interested in undertanding the *sign* of the feedback, and later the magnitude, rather than assume it's negative). And the denialist is therefore certain sensitivity to the doubling of CO2 lies far below the lower end of the accepted range (about 2C).
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  13. "Unless the models can accurately predict all this evidence (to his own arbitrary standards), we can't be sure that it is happening. Or did I miss something?" As others have said - no. He provided a link to a thread at real climate posted six years ago, arguments he's repeated in every thread he's participated in here. Nothing will convince him that perhaps experts in climate modeling must might know more about the subject than he does. The attributes listed in the OP should include something regarding "a stubborn refusal to abandon a position in the face of all contrary evidence".
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  14. Eric, Try opening your eyes. Arctic ice area extent is falling off a cliff. It has lost 45% of it's area in the past 30 years and more of it's volume. Why do you suppose that is happening? Or do you not accept that it is happening until your arbitrary conditions are met? If you have to wait a couple of decades for before you will acknowledge AGW where will the world be then? The loss of the arctic ice cap, which could occur in the next ten years, will have incalculable consequences, and you are still worried about low CS-inducing Arctic dust? As I said, you have it ass-backwards
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  15. Sphaerica, regarding my "knee-jerk science rejection", I pointed out in comment two that the 3% properly applies to rejections of GHE. After essentially being asked what I reject, I said high sensitivity was one example. I accept some and reject some of this attribution. I accept Arctic amplification, chuck101, but it is over-represented in the sensitivity analysis which assumes similar albedo changes from glacial to present as from present to double CO2. I accept the fact that the atmosphere is a commons, but I have issues with some cost estimates (some time I will look for a suitable thread). I accept this challenge for the right with the important caveat that I support much of CATO's stand on personal freedom and will not disassociate with them except to confirm that CATO employee Pat Michaels is an editorialist, not a scientist In short I am as "knee jerk" as one would expect coming from a libertarian mindset, but not as knee jerk as some (e.g. poptech), so that is a good thing.
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  16. re" 65 Do you support CATO's longtime paid support of the rights of tobacco companies to kill children slowly?
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  17. timothyh @ 51 says "it is important to rebut the denialists" That is true up to a point. The problem is that in the blog format that is favoured by climate science sites, the deniers get to frame the debate. Look at this thread. Eric (skeptic) has diverted it into a off-topic discussion of his right-wing views - his "climate science" which he believes is so "sophisticated" compared to poptech is really the same old tripe that you can read over at the models thread but stated more politely. The debate is asymmetric - WUWT simply dump posts or ban posters they find challenging - yet climate science sites provide a platform for the denier trolls. My point is that there needs to be more focus on outreach. The Conversation has an objective of doing that but it is effectively nullified by complete lack of moderation. It is like explaining evolution by debating creationism - seriously - is that the best way to do it? That seems to me to fly in the face of John Cook's warnings in The Debunking Handbook.
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    Response: [JC] Note that the Debunking Handbook doesn't say "don't engage misinformation", on the contrary. What it does say is when you engage misinformation, put the emphasis on the core facts you wish to communicate, rather than the myth. Practical applications of this are simple practices like avoiding using the myth as the headline of your debunking. In fact, in an educational setting, it's been shown that directly refuting myths is more effective in reducing the influence of misinformation than simply teaching the facts. The lesson from the Debunking Handbook is that we should debunk myths, but do it right.
  18. @mikeh1: On the other hand, Eric is entertaining us with a never-ending version of the Dance of the Climate Ostrich.
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  19. Micah, sorry, my fault. I brought up the politics. It's better for me to stay on the sensitivity thread instead. In the big picture threads like this don't matter. There are thousands of links into skepsci and there won't be any to this thread (they would link to John's original article). It's almost completely inconsequential.
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  20. Eric, you seem to forget that when we estimate the temperature sensitivity we are not looking at a process and projecting it forward in time. Rather we are looking at equilibrium points. If we make this disturbance in the heat balance, how much does the temperature have to change to reestablish equality of heat input and output. We can split the temperature sensitivity into four components. The first is the direct effect of the non precipitating greenhouse gases being introduced. The next is the effect of the feedback from changes in precipitating greenhouse gases, water vapor on Earth). The next is other atmospheric feedbacks, primarily clouds. The final one is non atmospheric feedbacks, primarily albedo changes and release from or absorption by natural reservoirs of greenhouse gases. The Charney sensitivity is the product of the first three and the Earth System sensitivity is the product of all four. Let's do a ballpark estimate of the sensitivity. The estimates from complex models will not be greatly different from these.. Now the direct effect of adding CO2 is a straightforward matter of spectral chemistry and radiative physics. It is agreed to be 1.2° C for a doubling of CO2. Given how much water vapor in the atmosphere changes as a result of temperature changes it is again straightforward to calculate its effect. The difficulty is that water vapour is not well mixed in the atmosphere. Still on average we will have the specific humidity increasing to keep the relative humidity roughly constant. Measurements can be and are taken of the changes in concentration that temperature changes bring. This effect is roughly a doubling. This already brings the sensitivity up to 2.4° C for a doubling of CO2, within the usually accepted range of estimates for the Charney sensitivity. Other atmospheric feedbacks is the difficult one. It is composed of circulation changes and cloud changes. The latter look like the big ones and they are composed both of positive feedbacks from trapping head and negative feedbacks from reflecting it back into space. Most estimates from models come up with a small positive net feedbacks but there is a large range including small negative or larger positive net feedbacks. Multiple lines of evidence support the usual Charney sensitivity estimate of 3.0° C. For this to be wrong you either need the effect of water vapour to be greatly in error of you need a large negative feedback from clouds. Do you have any evidence of either of these? For evidence of the water vapour feedback being wrong you need to point to different estimates of that effect with sound justifications for those effects. These need to be calculations from empirical evidence of the water vapour changes. For a large negative feedback from clouds, again evidence is needed. It is hard to estimate the vale of the non atmospheric feedbacks but there is no doubt about their sign. Paleoclimatic evidence support a doubling but since we are starting from a smaller ice cover than the transition out of glacials this is probably a bit high. But there is no way that the albedo changes will be anything but a positive feedback. And as for the release of greenhouse gases from permafrost etc. it's impossible for them to be negative. So evidence please that some of the estimates of these components are greatly in error.
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  21. I was a little amused to see this under examples of "Magnifying dissenters and non-experts" (emphasis mine) "Nils-Axel Mörner,"... "and author of books supporting the validity of dowsing." ... not even trying?
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  22. "Micah, sorry, my fault. I brought up the politics. It's better for me to stay on the sensitivity thread instead." It's good that you did, because it fits with the claim that right-wing politics is a good predictor of denialism. We know your arguments regarding sensitivity are bollocks, it's good to know why you hold on to your views despite an overwhelming amount of science. If you're right, you're not just Galileo ... you're Galileo, Einstein, Bohr, Darwin and others rolled into one.
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  23. What an enjoyable post and threads....
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  24. Gack
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  25. Lloyd Flack:
    Multiple lines of evidence support the usual Charney sensitivity estimate of 3.0° C.
    Not really, cloud sensitivity is all over the place and a chief source of uncertainty in equilibrium CS. Reference. ( -Snip-).
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Yes, really. Charney sensitivity is climate sensitivity, not cloud sensitivity. Thus you set up a strawman argument via goalpost shift and cherry-pick.

    Inflammatory tone snipped.

  26. Carrick: "Lloyd Flack: Multiple lines of evidence support the usual Charney sensitivity estimate of 3.0° C. Not really, cloud sensitivity is all over the place and a chief source of uncertainty in equilibrium CS. Reference." Not really, really. The paper referenced by James Annan includes 3C sensitivity in its 95% confidence interval. While it's true the most likely value computed in the paper is 2C, the authors have this to say about their own work: "The estimate of S presented here is likely to be underestimated because the net forcing of the other indirect effects are likely to be negative (Forster et al., 2007)." If they're correct about their own work, we end up back in the 3C ballpark. Their estimate also has a nice tail to the right which isn't really comforting for those of us who, say, wouldn't feel comfortable playing russian roulette even if the revolver has say 30 or 40 chambers rather than 6 ...
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  27. Also, Carrick's finding of one paper that gives a most likely value of 2C rather than 3C (even if the authors themselves had not declared that the value is probably too low) doesn't contradict Lloyd's statement that "Multiple lines of evidence support the usual Charney sensitivity estimate of 3.0° C". Multiple lins of evidence do support this, even if Carrick can cherrypick a small number of papers that suggest it's lower. His effort does fit in with the observations of the original post though ...
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    Moderator Response: [DB] All parties: please take further discussion of climate sensitivity to the appropriate thread. Thank you all.
  28. Eric@65: "...I support much of CATO's stand on personal freedom and will not disassociate with them..." Well, there we go. I was reading along with this and one wag stated something to the effect this 'thread would be meaningless.' Au contraire. That statement, coupled with yours, is *perfect* for supporting John Cook's original thesis of this post, and you could not have done a better job of typifying, both "knee jerk" PNS, and the stand of every CATO admirer I've *ever* run into. at least you have the good graces to acknowledge that Pat Michaels doesn't know his....from an ozone hole in the air! At least that puts you ahead of the majority of CATOians I've had the pleasure to "discus" this topic with. As always, I learn as much or more from the comments in a post as I do from the post.
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  29. SL, John Cook knows very well what cherry-picking is, you're the one who does not seem to understand: the people arguing that "it hasn't warmed since [insert whatever date here] cherry pick a part of the temperature record too short to indicate any kind of trend. It is entirely cherry picking: isolating a period over which the natural variation is much greater than the trend, and over which the natural variation happens to go slightly down. Some on this site have picked periods as short as 6 years to try to make that argument. Strangely enough, the same people often argue that 30 years of satellite records is not enough to detect a real trend in Arctic se ice and that natural variation may very well be the cause of the observed trend there. That's one way you can identify fake skeptics. As for your personal example, the way it is worded can allow you to disguise it as something else than the usual non sequitur, which goes "it has happened for other reasons before so it is happening for other reasons now." The disguise was so transparent that John Cook saw right through it. Nonetheless, to honor the carefully crafted wording of your specific argument, let's examine it as you have it worded: it has happened for other reasons before so we can't be sure that it's not happening again for other reasons now. I'm not sure about a latin name for it, but the argument is flawed and has no place in a rational scientific discussion. Let's imagine that a patient shows up in the ED with wheezing, a cough, enlarged lower extrenmities, who confesses she hasn't taken her "water pills" lately because she ran out and they're too expensive. You could argue that she's had coughing and wheezing before because of common colds and decide not to treat for congestive heart failure because a common cold can't be ruled out this time. That would be utterly stupid but justified according to your reasoning. In fact, even after obtaining lab results showing an elevated BNP and an echo showing enlargement with reduced ejection fraction, you could still argue the same thing, since it can not be absolutely ruled out that she's not coughing because of a common cold. The reasoning is profoundly flawed.
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  30. Sean Lamb - " The examples chosen as cherry-picking are not really cherry picking, they just look like assertions to me..." Just for clarity, quoting from the ever-popular Wiki on the Cherry Picking fallacy:
    ...the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias.
    So yes - arguments that we haven't seen warming in insignificantly short time periods, or at a single temperature station, or that a particular glacier is actually growing - these are all cherry-picking, ignoring the full body of evidence in favor of a tiny subset that matches desired conclusions. In other words, those arguments are fallacies.
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  31. Sean, " The examples chosen as cherry-picking are not really cherry picking, they just look like assertions to me..." That really is an asinine comment. There is no reason why a cherry pick cannot be presented via an assertion. For example, from our very own Bob Carter, parroted ably by a poor apology for an anthropologist on an adjacent blog: "The planet hasn't warmed since 2001" That is both a (false) assertion and simultaneously a cherry pick. Attempting to redefine what a cherry pick is won't work on this blog.
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  32. Just for the record, Eric's initial premise in his opening comment on this thread was:
    Briefly, a large majority of skeptics agree with the 97% of climate scientists on AGW.
    This comment thread has all by itself proven that premise to be 100%, categorically false.
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  33. Sphaerica, the question "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" elicits 97.5% "yes" response from climate scientists (See /global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm) I believe a majority of skeptics would also answer yes. But there are lot who say no, especially when the word "significant" is used in the question. My question for you is what is the quantitative consensus of climate scientists on sensitivity? IOW, what range of S would 90% or 95% or 97% agree on?
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  34. And so the great wheel of futile discussion completes another revolution. Nicely played, Eric.
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  35. Doug@85, I clicked your link and it's.... it's.... Groundhog Day!
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  36. Eric@84: " I believe a majority of skeptics would also answer yes. But there are lot who say no, especially when the word "significant" is used in the question." Fair enough: Could you provide a list, from some credible journal(s) supporting your opinion?
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  37. Meanwhile over at DeSmogBlog on a thread on this topic there has been a visitation by a full blown beiever in most conspiacy theries, moonlanding hoax, 9/11 inside job, etc., etc.. For your amusement. http://www.desmogblog.com/2012/09/05/research-links-climate-science-denial-conspiracy-theories-skeptics-smell-conspiracy
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  38. Eric wrote My question for you is what is the quantitative consensus of climate scientists on sensitivity? IOW, what range of S would 90% or 95% or 97% agree on? I think you will find that most climate scientists would probably tell you "the range published in the IPCC report, of course". There is a good reason for this, which is that most competent scientists avoid cherry picking and will look at the spectrum of results obtained in different ways. They may have their own views on which vlue they think is most likely, but there would be more agreement on the spread as scientists tend to be open about uncertainty. Now I suspect that your question was just trolling to spin out the discussion, given that other than the IPCC report (which was written as a summary of the mainstream position) none of us are going to be able to give an informative answer as I doubt any of us have performed a survey of climatologists. If you really want the definitive answer to this, then I suggest you perform the survey yourself.
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  39. Dikran, my comment in #2 is no different from my first paragraph in #84. Regarding my 2nd paragraph, looking again at K&H 2008, I see there is a 2-4.5C range for "expert elicitation". That's at least part of the answer to my question to Sphaerica. But I want more detail behind that number and unfortunately do not have time right now to look for it. vrooomie, your request is valid. I don't have a lot of time, but I found a thesis http://orca.cf.ac.uk/24182/1/2012capsticksbphd.pdf which may provide some raw data. I'll look through it when I get some time.
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  40. Yeah vroomie, it's as though nothing happened at all. Waste heat, so to speak. But perhaps it's not a waste. On a hopeful note we can probably trust that some unknown count of readers will notice how these conversations always start at the consensus position, then meander around the consensus only to return neatly and seemingly inexorably back to where they started: the consensus. The people who came up with ~3°/doubling have their reasons. Incessant rotation through those reasons as led by Eric et al. is maybe not such a bad thing, assuming people have the patience to help crank the wheel.
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  41. Rather than hair-split over which logical fallacy Sean has actually committed, can we use an informal description of his arguments? Such as ... "baloney".
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  42. Sean, there doesn't appear to be any evidence of a "cyclical disappearance" of Arctic sea ice during the past 2,000 years. Rather than imagine it might have happened, it's probably better to deal with the reality of the present. I'm also puzzling over how and why one is supposed to argue against an imaginary scenario of the kind you mention w/regard to falling temperatures vs. rising C02. Why not stick with something real? Natural variability: La Nina versus El Nino. Not difficult to find examples.
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  43. Sean, I have two questions: 1) If there has been a cooling trend since 2001, why are the two hottest years in the record 2005 and then 2010? It has been shown that La Nina's have dominated most of the past 10 years. This completely explains the lesser heating (not cooling) for the past 10 years. See the Escalator. 2) If there has been cyclic melting in the Arctic for the past 2000 years, why did the 4000 year old ice shelfs that recently melted in Northern Canada not melt in the previous cycles? Please provide links to data that supports your claims.
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  44. 84, Eric, You are misrepresenting what that 97% number means -- I think willfully. And you and I both know that no one has conducted a study to see what the consensus is on climate sensitivity in particular. You are play games.
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  45. Sean, Your position is: 1) Humans inhabited northern Greenland at time X 2) Therefore temperatures were warmer at time X But #2 does not follow from #1. It is thus a non sequitur.
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  46. It is the question of communication and the potential for miscommunication be it by accident or with clear intent that is my focus and area of concern. This is the right thread to pose the following. Here is a question for the sake of discussion… Let’s begin by making a few assumptions as foundation. 1. Climate science has “knowns, unknowns, and unknown unknowns.” Rumsfeld’s Wager. Known data metrics are in place for a vast variety of components but there are also metrics that range from vague in there inference to overtly inexact in their inability to generate accurate historical comparisons or show the long range trend, there is an ever changing technology that creates new and more precise ways of measuring which in turn may alter or go so far as to invalidate previous findings, and there are data components that we have not been able to quantify or qualify though we assume that they are playing a role though it is currently undetermined as to how much if at all; these are the unsure/unknowns. Lastly there are the bits that we have not discovered so we can not know what if any input they may have. These are the Quarks of knowing that one day may cross our radar, but until they do… 2. Anthropogenic Climate Tipping (ACT) is real and ongoing, it involves not only atmospheric emissions but includes among others; deforestation and loss of wetlands as insult to the natural carbon sink, chemical pollution that is increasing near shore and fresh water acidification, and drought conditions being exacerbated by an over allocation of available resources. 3. The states of understanding and current technologies are incapable of redirecting let alone “stone-cold” stopping the trajectory of ACT. Other than ceasing particular activities we currently have no ability to repair the damage done or prevent further forcings that may feedback from the inputs to date. 4. Models are the only way of determining the trajectory of ACT and predicting the potential fallout from ACT. All models are only as good as their data inputs, the integrity of the statistical analysis and the structure of the model in relationship to the conclusion offered. So here is the question, if we accept these four points and we acknowledge that the status of climate science offers a preponderance of evidence to support in particular the idea of AGW, why is opinion to the contrary tolerated let alone entertained? Has the democratization of opinion been validated to the point that we tolerate a lay person shouting down an atmospheric chemist when discussing atmospheric chemistry? Why is there no reality “strike force” willing to beat down the cabal of denial and disinformation? In the movie The Social Network the Winklevoss brothers choose at first not to directly confront Zuckerberg because “that is not what Harvard men do.” Part of the problem in communicating the global condition is that the scientist who are developing the data sets and publishing papers whose conclusions indicate a growing problem are not getting in the face of those in the cabal because “that is not what scientist do.” Maybe the science of reality, which is support by overwhelming data and empirical observation, needs to hire a kennel of feral pit-bulls who don’t mind bloody knuckles and are willing to take the cabal’s lies and make a rope with which to slip around the neck of denial. Now it is different when dealing with scientist who either cherry-pick data metrics and purposefully apply inappropriate and unintended observations or who quibble over model predictions as thought an end result observation from a model disqualifies the input metrics completely. Often this is a very skilled sophistry that dances to a tune of plausibility so as to catch the lay-publics ear but uses the unseen footwork of fallacy that the unqualified fail to witness. “Gee, that scientist sure did make sense. He has to be right, he’s a scientist.” This is sadly the hardest battle to fight. Maybe a theoretical physicist will claim that GHG forcing can not exist as it violates TD law, or an engineer will raise an issue over the excessive reliance on models that have in the past posited conclusions that were later found faulting, or a medical doctor will simply states that there is nothing to this, it’s all natural. These three are all highly educated professionals who have a history of working with the scientific method; how is the lay-public to discern the difference between an expert and an Expert. It appears to me to be a question of either a proactive or reactive approach. We can either fiddle as Rome burns and try to react against an onslaught of sophistry and obfuscation whose reason for being is unknown or we can proactively leave the city walls and meet the barbarians on a field of our choosing, a field where we can use the high ground of empirical data and observable metrics to not just fend off but rather to pummel the misinformation and strip bare the face behind the mask. That is what Harvard lawyers do.
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  47. Sean Lamb, you are wrong again on logical fallacies. In every day speech, a non sequitur is a statement totally disconnected from the prior exchange, such as the example you give. However, you claim yourself in no ambigous terms that your argument is on logical fallacies, not every day speech. In logical reasoning, non-sequitur is an argument in which the conclusion does not follow from the premises. It takes a variety of forms involving middle, precedent, antecedent, disjunct, conjunct. You should do basic research before making authoritative assertions on a subject like logical reasoning.
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  48. @ Sean Lamb #103 "non-sequiur"??? PS - Pride goeth before the fall.
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  49. Sean: Well the evidence I put forward was the fact that there were signs of human habitation on the northern tip of Greenland, Peary Land, for punctuated intervals. And it logically follows that not just the coast of Antarctica but also Domes A,C and F of Antarctica have all been ice-free within our lifetimes.
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  50. Sean Lamb,
    On the matter of La Nina and El Nino a simplistic understanding would be that these are just moving heat around the globe and might not necessarily impact on average global temperatures signatures.
    They are "just moving heat around the globe" — specifically, between the ocean portion of the globe and the atmosphere portion of the globe. This is precisely why they do impact on average surface temperature records, which are atmospheric measures. When you compare the relative sizes of their heat capacities, it becomes pretty obvious why, when the ocean sneezes, the atmosphere catches a cold. It's also clear why looking at a short portion of the atmospheric temperature record is a double cherry-pick — it's a too-short portion of a tiny portion of the Earth's total heat content.
    And I would also have thought a 10 year cooling trend against a background of increasing CO2 (assuming it had occurred) would be something Climate Science would hope to have been developed enough to try and comprehend rather than just use the hand-waving term "Natural Variability".
    Of course it has. Foster and Rahmstorf (2011) is but one example of what happens to the underlying temperature signal when you remove known exogenous factors like solar activity, ENSO, and volcanic activity. These are considered "noise" or "natural variability" because they do not have a trend and cancel out over longer time frames, so they are completely irrelevant when it comes to discussions about climate. However, over short time periods, they have a significant impact on the trend you calculate from the raw data so if you want to determine the underlying trend over a ten year period you need to remove their effect: When you do, you find that there has been no "slowdown" in the rate of atmospheric temperature increase at all -- the apparent slowdown is caused entirely by the normal decline in solar insolation during that period coupled with the characteristics of ENSO during that period. Climate Science not only explains why you can get ten year periods of negative trends, models demonstrate "many 10 year periods with little warming" due entirely to "natural variability" while still having the inexorably increasing trend due to CO2. As noted by Santer et al, 17 years would be required before you could start calling into question the models: The Skeptical Science trend calculator is a good resource if you want to experiment with statistical significance of various temperature records at different timescales, and, of course, Skeptical Science itself is an excellent resource if you want to pre-empt the inevitable responses to your questions by learning more about the subject before posing them.
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