It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fullergate


Tom Fuller writes:

"Now, did you want to talk about the foundations of my criticism of some of the science and scientists recently involved in climate research? Because I'll guarantee you the foundations are stronger than your critcisms of me."

I reply:

Sure! Why not? I like that game. Let's play.

My criticism of Tom's position is that he tries to portray himself as the reasonable one and paint his opponents as arrogant, when in fact us opponents are only trying to call a duck a duck. There is nothing arrogant about that. It's just the nature of the beast. But we are, to be sure, getting a little exasperated about the whole business. How would you feel? Tom almost compulsively takes the journalist's middle ground.

His statement of position, actually, has much to recommend it.

But I see it as a threat that must be dealt with in the same context as many other threats to our continued development. I believe our first responsibility is to the poor of this world, and that brings an immediate conflict between our responsiblity to them and to remediation of global warming. The most important thing the poor need is access to cheap energy, which will serve to worsen CO2 emissions. But I have to say their need is so pressing that we should address it first.
Remarkably, this is pretty much the eco-equity point of view. As regards policy, he and I are more or less in agreement: solving poverty cannot be separated from global energy policy, and poverty must be solved.


The problem comes when Tom takes on science:

I believe the first theory of global warming--that a doubling of concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to a slight warming of the planet's mean temperatures--but not the second--that this will trigger positive feedback through the untrammeled growth of water vapor leading to much more drastic temperature rises.
Now where the heck does he get that from? OK, kids, be polite.

He pulled it out of his, um, hat. Right. Hat.

On what basis is he claiming to know anything about water vapor feedback? None whatsoever. It is a "belief".

Proposing that matters of fact are decided by intuition or faith is a very very very bad idea. This way of "thinking" separates the reading public from science. It becomes some magical thing that Matt Damon is born with and probably you aren't. It is described as having nothing to do with evidence. It's a very poor start to a discussion based on facts, to get the facts wrong and not provide a hint of a trail as to where the opinion came from.



56 comments:

Tom said...

Now, this is where the conversation would normally break down. I would insist that I caught you in a fatal error in logic--that you, with no background in journalism or market research proceeded to pronounce authoritatively on it, but you are willing to forbid me to write on climate change, because you suspect my scientific background is inadequate. You would get angry, I would get spiteful and we would retreat to our respective corners.

Let's go beyond that. Neither journalism nor market research are as difficult to apprehend as climate science--indeed, neither really is a 'science' (although some market researchers will insist otherwise). They both are crafts, in the older sense of the word, with rules of the road, tricks of the trade and traditions. It is your lack of knowledge of those that led you into grievous error when evaluating my journalistic dilemma and my online survey, and in fact, you could probably speak intelligently about both subjects with a little study--far less study than it would require to write about climate science.

But what on earth gives you the right to pronounce on my capability to write on climate science? Did you investigate my academic background or professional experience? Have you read all, or even a significant portion, of what I have written? What unseemly arrogance on your part to pronounce yourself arbiter--show me your slain enemies.

You would not only have to be fully expert on climate science but on me to make the statements you make. I humbly submit you're not up to speed on at least half of that.

You do not know what I've read, who I've spoken to, what I've seen on the internet. And yet, simply because I am honest enough to admit I am not a scientist, you think I should shut up.

I think you want me to shut up because you don't like what I say, not because of anything else.

I believe that you use this as an excuse to belittle me, without having to admit any shortcomings of your own.

In short, like so many of the activist community, you behave like a bully.

But that's okay--I am neither a victim nor a bully myself. You want to talk--talk. But here's a hint--try it this way.

Michael, why don't you talk about your qualifications to address these subjects in the way that you do? I'm genuinely curious.

Michael Tobis said...

I think my own experience matters when talkiing to the general public. When I am talking to someone who sets himself up as a reporter, my own background becomes secondary, and the issue is the evidence.

Still, it is a fair question.

My undergrad and masters' were in electronics with a focus in statistical communication theory, very much inspired by Norbert Wiener. At my mathematical peak I was able to make some headway into Wiener's treatise on Fourier integrals, and had a pretty solid grasp on his Time Series treatise.

Doctorate, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, 1996, University of Wisconsin - Madison. My thesis involved theory and computational experiments for accelerating ocean model performance, essentially a trick, er, exploit, er, algorithm at the boundary of physics and computer science.

My postdoc at the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne National Lab really was something of a failure. In retrospect, it is clear that I made several mistakes. As someone coming form a family without so much as a bachelor's degree, I was unacculturated and underappreciated by the people who should have appreciated me. The right thing for me to do would have been to hang around Jorge More's office until he came up with something useful for me to do, but nobody had the perception to tell me that at the time.

I have been sort of meandering about in the wilderness since then, in and out of climate science. I had some experience as a business consultant and wrote a small book about it. (De jure coauthored with my wife, though she mostly edited. Then it was somewhat damaged by McGraw's editor.) I also spent some time in the web business, ending up managing a team of programmers.

The gap between science and software development is something I've been unable to adequately bridge, and my current position doesn't really match my abilities. I was active on sci.environment in public outreach about climate change in the 1990s, and have seen the increasing solidity of the science matched by the increasing sophistication of the techniques of ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, to reach the now sophisticated propaganda engine in whose saw you have fallen.

I haven't been at the core of the field by any means, but I've seen some absolutely brilliant seimnars at the University of Chicago and have had the benefit of numerous one-on-one conversations with Francis Bretherton and Ray Pierrehumbert, two of the greatest geophysicists of our time. I also count, more as a result of blogging than of research, a couple of dozen serious scientists as friends and allies.

I have every bit as much right to complain about your writing as to write about it. I am not an exeprt in Tom Fuller, and you are not an expert in geophysics. I will happily stipulate the one if you will stipulate the other.

The question is how to write productively about subjects about which one is inexpert. As you already have pointed out, humility is a good approach.

The problem is that I see little evidence of a good balance between humility and arrogance in your writing. Sometimes your self-confidence comes off as woefully misplaced. I don't see this in Carl Zimmer, or James Hrynyshyn, or Chris Mooney, or Christopher Mims. I want these guys to keep writing, and I want you to stop.

Now, you're under no obligation to listen to me. Still, I am convinced that what you are doing, to quote a famous troll, is the opposite of helping.

Michael Tobis said...

"There are numerous newspapers, radio stations and television channels all trying to get our attention. Some overstate and some want to downplay the problem as a way to get that attention," he said. "We are trying to discuss in the media a highly complex issue. Nobody would discuss the problem of [Einstein's theory of] relativity in the media. But because we all experience the weather, we all believe that we can assess the global warming problem"

-M Latif

Tom said...

Michael, thank you for your reply. I am fortunate at least that not everybody shares your opinion of my writing.

Our backgrounds are quite similar actually, as are most of our views about climate science.

I may not come off as humble when I write, but I do not claim to be able to judge who should or should not write. I would revise and extend the famous troll's remarks to read 'the opposite of helping is censoring.' At the end of the day, if you thought my writing was all that bad, you wouldn't worry about me at all. You would ignore me. After all, wanting me to stop only requires a mouse click from you to turn want into reality.

I would imagine that you think I am causing harm to a wider public or to your political cause with what I write that makes you want me to stop.

Where am I wrong in this assessment?

Tom said...

To address your 'sheeshes' in your last comment on the previous thread:

Sheesh 1:

I am an amateur blogger with a job and a life that come ahead of moderating the blog. I am usually but not always at a computer; when I am at a computer I am happiest when the turnaround of my jobs is quick; in those cases I will not look up from my work for hours at a stretch, There is no quality of service guarantee for comment moderation on this blog. Which it clearly says in the text above the comment block. "Please be patient; moderation delays are not consistent and come with no guarantee of service " What exactly does that mean to you?

'sheesh number 1': I did not mean to criticise you for being slow--I was trying to explain my absence.

Sheesh 2:

Did you not understand the criticism of the first question of your poll?

There was no "none of the above"answer. I could not have answered the first question. That isn't theoretical. There was no answer remotely close to my position. Don't you see that as a problem?

'sheesh 2': Climate change is not the only area that uses the term forcing. There are times in market research when you do not want a respondent to have a 'none of the above' option. It is not fair, but that's the way it is.

Sheesh 3:

If you are allowed to disrespect climate scientists I am allowed to disrespect journalists,

'sheesh 3.' And you will have an environment that is far more target rich.

Tom said...

Sheesh 4:

" I suppose that's easier than facing the truth about a rogue element within the climate science community. Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa and Ben Santer did bad things. "

I don;t agree with everything Mann has done. I don't know of anything Briffa did wrong but maybe he has. I consider their entire subfield of marginal importance.

Jones is another matter. He appears to have made some tactical errors in dealing with what he saw as a nuisance from unhelpful outsiders, but there isn't any evidence that his results are suspect.

As far as I know Santer's behavior has been exemplary at every point, and the accusations directed at him were especially outrageous.

Feel free to elaborate. We really are trying to understand how any of these relatively minor transgressions could possibly percolate to the policy level as is being alleged.

'Sheesh 4.' It would take too long to address the transgressions of each of these individuals at the end of an already long post. I'll try and get to it soon. Of course, you could just buy my book... Nah. I'll be specific later.

Sheesh 5:

This is really the important part.

You cannot suggest there was suppression of opposing papers without pointing to papers that were not garbage. See, this is the whole trap we are in.

If the science is further advanced than you are willing to admit, many vaguely science-shaped results should be rejected. Indeed, those that are far out of the mainstream can be rejected by a clique, or can be rejected because the science has matured to the point where the out-of-mainstream stuff simply can't hold water.

Your job as a journalist is to determine which is the case. You are not just getting it wrong.

You are failing to understand that you might be getting it wrong. So you are on the wrong beat. I would not know how to prove this to you except to engage you in the details. But Bart has done so and you appear impervious to the evidence.

'Sheesh 5.' You fail to understand the scope of the problem. If suppression is occurring then we will never know how many papers are being rejected. We will never know how many scientists decide not to write them because of fears of how they will be received. We will never know how many lines of enquiry are abandoned because of fears of bullying. I have seen, and I am confident you have too, anecdotal reports of just this kind of unfortunate occurrence. I don't know how we'll ever find out, either. Pity, that.

As for being impervious to the evidence, I started this journey as a skeptic. I no longer am. So maybe Bart and others who engage actually do serve a useful purpose.

Tom said...

Michael, I don't want to discuss the weather. I want to discuss the policy options available to us, the risks involved and the uncertainty levels attached to those risks.

I want to talk about the intellectual rigor of those coming forward with prescriptive measures, the probity of public officials charged with dealing with climate change and the honesty of a small group of scientists that have been closeted with each other for far too long.

I greatly appreciate Dr. Latif's recent public statements--in entirety. More like this, please.

Charles said...

Michael, you are being too reasonable here. Without meaning to sound disrespectful, I think Tom Fuller is not worth the time. His first response here is what I would characterize as a sort of postmodern "Oh, let's just be endlessly reasonable about everything." His (postmodern) suggestion that you have no right to pronounce on his capability to write on climate science is laughable. Equally laughable is his assertion: "You would not only have to be fully expert on climate science but on me to make the statements you make." This is the sort of stuff that the shadow side of postmodernism produces: "Nobody tells me what to think. Nobody has any authority to comment on what I want to say."

I hope I'm being sufficiently polite. Please, Michael: drop this. No more about Tom Fuller.

John Mashey said...

MT: reflect on the fact that the poorest people of the world don't use much, if any fossil fuel.

Also reflect on the fact that conservative thinktanks have suddenly become big champions of the poor of the world, right with Lomborg.

ourchangingclimate said...

Tom,

You write: “You do not know what I've read, who I've spoken to, what I've seen on the internet.”

You have stated on your site (as well as here) that your thinking on the subject is primarily influenced by Lomborg, McIntyre, the Pielke’s and Liljegren. Lomborg’s “the skeptical environmentalist” was especially influential in creating your initial frame in which you place newly found information. You have also stated that you respect Schneider (good choice) and more recently myself (a relative nobody) as coming from the mainstream science side, probably because we have remained polite. (I think in order to keep a conversation constructive, it’s important to remain polite. However, note that being polite is not the same as being correct; politeness and correctness may not even correlate, and as Michael alluded to, sometimes even anti-correlate if the politeness is merely a deliberate strategy in persuasion.) However, I haven’t seen much evidence of the mainstream science, as I have imperfectly tried to articulate to you, having influenced your thinking.

To the contrary: You seem to build your arguments very strongly on blog postings and other internet sources, coming from a certain direction. It sais very little about the science or the scientists you're criticizing. If a blog post is trusted more than the body of scientific literature (or expressions from scientific bodies), doesn't that suggest a distrust or misunderstanding of the scientific process, or at least of the scientists involved?

This line of thinking, and your choice of sources to trust and distrust, stems from before the stolen email affair. Recently you put a lot of emphasis on what you call “climategate” in explaining your distrust of climate science and scientists. But your distrust already existed before the CRU emails were released. They confirmed and probably strengthened your pre-existing distrust, but it's the source of the latter that I'm curious about.

I wager that Lomborg and the others of your trusted sources are very persuasive, so I’m not surprised that by entering the discussion via their lens, your views have developed into what they are now. Add to that the polarized nature of the popular debate (scientists are understandably getting sick and tired having to defend the basic premises against extra-scientific attacks), of which the opposition makes good use in painting the scientists as extremists, activists, and “true believers”, and the cocktail is such that it’s very tempting for a relative outsider to become suspicious of the science once they wade into the popular debate.

Engaging in the popular debate is one thing. Understanding the science is quite another. There really is no alternative than to go primarily for a broad palette of scientific sources in trying to understand the science. Skip any of the tree-ring guys that you don’t trust, if you’re so inclined. It won’t make a difference to the big picture, as Michael already noted.

Bart

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

So Tom Fuller, upon being caught pulling facts out of his, um, hat, decides his excuse for doing that is "how dare you bully me into accepting you as the arbiter of truth!"

No, Tom. We're accepting facts and evidence as the arbiter of truth -- just as any judge in a law court with a conscience and a brain would do. You've not even tried to provide any facts or evidence, so stop crying persecution already.

* * *

MT: I think it's useful to refrain from being pulled into climate inactivists' argument frame, whatever that is. Usually when someone advances an argument for inactivism, I don't simply look at the argument, I look at what the argument was responding to. Does wonders for spotting attempts at distractions.

-- bi

Martin said...

Tom,

Know your limits.
 

EliRabett said...

The wascally wabbit already said this over at the duck lab, but Fuller's mission is to split the public from the climate scientists and those trying to communicate the climate science. That includes Gore and Romm, which is why attacks like Fuller's and Green's and HE WHO CANNOT BE NAMED have to be answered, and strongly. Dealing with such a manipulator as Fuller, conceding good will is a loser. One does not have to be nasty, straightforward works.

Fuller and Co. repeat lies, untruths, exaggerations and accusations without end, depending on the eyes of those who disagree with them to at some point cross and stop correcting them, or when called out on a double major for unreasonable bull, they start whining.

Sometimes the Fullers of the world start with "I am the expert" listen to me. ROTFLEAO

VicDiesel said...

Tom,

enlighten me, if you would.

You say you come to your conclusions "because this is where my best thinking (poor as it may be--I am not a scientist) has led me."

One of your conclusions being that you don't believe "that this will trigger positive feedback through the untrammeled growth of water vapor leading to much more drastic temperature rises."

That's a very scientific statement. How does the best thinking of a non-scientist go in this case?

Victor.

Tom said...

Michael, there's one post of mine that you haven't published yet--did you receive it? Talks a bit about water vapor.

Journals serve as a means of communicating information regarding the advancement of science. They are not in and of themselves 'science.' Now blogs are trying to set themselves up in competition. If a weblog links to a scientific paper, it is communicating information about science more quickly than most journals.

I repeat that you do not know where I get information about science, basically because you haven't asked, which I find a common theme among activists on this issue. You tend to make very quick assumptions and have canned responses ready.

I write about things on weblogs because they have a demonstrated interest for the public and are generally concerned with political decisions, policy options and other areas where I actually can make my own contribution. As I am not a scientist, after reading Dessler on AIRS and Pielke's heavily referenced reply, I cannot offer conclusions about water vapor. Having communicated frequently with Pielke, and reading his nuanced communications about uncertainty in this area, I conclude that this area needs a lot more work before we base policy on it.

You seem to think this is an error of some magnitude. However, it seems clear that your attitude towards Pielke is formed by the same garbage tactics you use in forming your opinion about me.

Again, you lambaste me because you think I don't educate myself about science. That's a thin cover for lambasting me because I don't agree with your policy preferences.

Look at the assumptions your commenters are making. Do you share them? Postmodern...? Republican...? HE WHO CANNOT BE NAMED? You gotta be kidding me.

Michael Tobis said...

The only comment by Tom Fuller which I have rejected is the brief one which asks why I am taking so long to moderate comments.

I have not seen a prior comment addressing water vapor.

Either your browser, your network connection, or Blogger is probably at fault. Please resend if you can.

Michael Tobis said...

"As I am not a scientist, after reading Dessler on AIRS and Pielke's heavily referenced reply, I cannot offer conclusions about water vapor."

But you did. That is the whole point.

I don't even know if we disagree about policy. I haven't paid any attention to your policy prescriptions because the basis of your reasoning is so confused.

We disagree very strongly about what science is and what the role of science journalism is. Even if I were to agree with your policy suggestions I would still very strongly disapprove of your process of getting there and the nature of your contribution to the public discourse.

This is about something even more fundamental and important than policy. It's about truth.

Tom said...

Michael, I would characterise our differences in this manner: We probably do not disagree to a huge extent on where the state of scientific information regarding climate change is today. As I write almost every day, I believe climate change is real, that CO2 and other greenhouse gases contribute to warming, that it is a pressing public policy problem.

I think the difference is in our approach to resolving it. Because of stated uncertainties in the data and modelled projections, I favor an incrementalist approach, starting with Obama's energy program (including some modest mechanism for putting a price on carbon). I believe the bulk of our energies should focus on making the developing world more resilient, primarily through the natural mechanisms of development, recognising that they love their patch of the environment every bit as much as we love ours, and that given the resources they will assist in taking care of it as soon as they can.

You seem to favor (but this is only an assumption on my part--feel free to correct me) placing firm caps on emissions worldwide.

I would submit that one advantage of my policy preferences is that we can start now without global agreement, and another is that without a verification program of some sort, there is little to prevent some countries from declaring victory and walking away from the issue.

Please explain to me specifically what is unscientific about this.

Patrick said...

Dear Tom,

In your comment to Michael you said to him:

"I repeat that you do not know where I get information about science, basically because you haven't asked, which I find a common theme among activists on this issue."

And yet in the essay with which Michael opened this discussion he asked the following question:

"On what basis is he claiming to know anything about water vapor feedback? None whatsoever. It is a "belief.""

To me this seems like an invitation to provide some statements and evididence that would give other people a warrant for holding this same assertion to be true. In my college composition class I was, more than once, knocked down for making assertions without some sort of backing evidence, and for good reason. It may be provacative to call your assertion a 'belief,' but without some kind of warrant making a statement like that is not of great use, because your statement is not common knowledge, and as such you must make a case for it.

Mr. Tobis has asked you for an indication of where you get your information, and I for one am genuinely interested to hear what you have to say. The rhetoric about belief may have distracted you, as I would have been, but the question has been asked. So please put aside your indignation and elaborate a bit.

Tom said...

A bit more about the water vapor issue.

1. There is not nearly as much agreement on water vapor as a forcing as there is on other aspects of climate change.

2. I find the plain language explanations by scientists who highlight this uncertainty to be more convincing. I can follow the science, pace your team here, but have to be walked through it.

3. The non-scientific question that arises, why was a tipping point caused by water vapor not caused by previous warming, seems to me not to be absurd.

I don't believe that water vapor will be a huge positive forcing because it appears to rain out quickly and interact with cloud formation and duration that seem to serve as natural balancing factors.

I'm willing to listen to counter arguments--I found Dessler's recent work very interesting and I was among the first to post on it. But I think, for example, that the positive forcing by melting Arctic ice is much better established.

With that, I'll have to sign off here for now. I'm sure I'll learn more about my lamentable ignorance, ancestry and personal habits when I return.

Michael Tobis said...

Charles, I understand and mostly agree with your point of view.

I did mention Tom in an unflattering context and I think that means I ought to bend over backwards to allow him to defend himself as best as he can. Then the rest of us can evaluate how well he did.

Perhaps I was wrong. On the otehr hand perhaps I'm just giving him more rope. The reader can judge for herself or himself.

While the question of whether Tom Fuller himself gains more than he loses from such a thing is arguable, I agree with Eli. Past experience shows that we cannot afford to ignore the social phenomena of which Tom Fuller is a not unrepresentative part.

We are in a tough spot here. But ignoring inconvenient truths is the whole problem, isn't it?

Steve Bloom said...

Ah, the ever-nuanced RP Sr., whose webmaster Anthony Watts recently expunged the comments from RP Sr.'s blog, the better to cover up certain embarrassing errors. A bit scandalous, don't you think, Tom?

FYI, not all climate scientists are expert in all areas of the sciences. In fact none are. Re the wv feedback, RP Sr. is operating outside of his own specialty, and Dessler can be characterized as a proxy for the specialty. IOW, relying on RP Sr. in this instance is ludicrous unless you've got an awfully good reason for believing he's right over all of the actual experts in the field.

(While we're on the subject of RP Sr., here's a current headline from his blog: "Interesting Set Of Slides From MSNBC On The Northern Hemisphere’s Current Cold Period". The Northern Hemisphere as a whole is experiencing a cold period? It wasn't the last time I checked.)

For me, what settled the wv feedback question (and Lindzen's "iris" for that matter) was paleoclimate. We can't explain e.g. the glacial cycles or the mid-Pliocene (the last time the planet had CO2 levels close to those of the present) without a strong overall wv feedback. This is why RP Sr. and Lindzen avoid paleoclimate like the plague. Have a look at Robinson (2009) and in particular the latest iteration of the PRISM SST map on page 7. As with the glaciations, technically this doesn't make a reduced wv feedback impossible, but it means that if it the case there must be some even larger (uncharacterized and unobserved) positive feedback that pushes climate into a much warmer state even with CO2 of just 350 ppm. In a convenient world, a cloud negative feedback would give us time to clean up our atmospheric pollution act before that unknown strong positive feedback kicks in, but I'm afraid that's not the world we live in.

But anyway, you're a journalist, so why not ask RP Sr. the hard questions about paleoclimate? It'll be amusing to see his attempts at answers.

Hank Roberts said...

> Our backgrounds are
> quite similar actually

> I am not a scientist

Similar like black and white are both not in the rainbow?
Similar how?

-------

> you, with no background
> in journalism or market
> research proceeded to
> pronounce authoritatively
> on it

Yeah, Michael says you should cite sources and describe facts accurately within your area of competent understanding, and otherwise stop.

Market research says, what? You should attract eyeballs and clickthroughs, get paid per post or view examiner.com, and there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Did I get that right?

Journalism says "What? I died? How long ago?"

Michael Tobis said...

Tom, you will be surprised to discover that I mostly don't care about any of that.

I don't really have a publicly stated policy position, beyond that stated by Ken Caldeira: the correct target for net carbon emissions is the same as the correct target for mugging little old ladies, i.e., zero.

In the short run, I don't particularly disagree with your prescriptions as long as the daunting scale of the long term constraints are acknowledged.

I don't especially care about how we get to zero. I mostly care about when.

None of this has anything to do with my objections to what you say in your writing!

The problem is that you take seriously on the matters of the underlying substance people who ought not to be taken seriously, and you ignore the people who ought to be taken seriously.

The only way to avoid being a de facto deoncstructionist, is to acknowledge that who the real experts on a given matter are is a factual question, not a question of inclination or opinion.

To act is if there were no objective answer to this question is to discount the scientific method entirely. And if you do that, you and your allies will be grossly incapable of coming up with an approach that works.

Nature always wins. You don't get to elect a new nature. You have to cope with the nature you've got.

It is the obligation of those who understand what nature is telling us to explain it as well as we can. It is the obligation of those who don't, to admit that they don't.

You seem to think Roger Pielke Sr is a very nice man and I am not. I hate to be thought mean and arrogant, but I have to tell the truth as I see it. It is my moral obligation. R P Sr. may well be a nice man but from what have seen (on both of the two occasions I have looked) he is quite capable of being w worthless scientific hack. That is not a nice thing to say. So be it. He is a nicer man than I am.

But having been drastically wrong two out of two times on positions he himself has staked out that I have investigated doesn't incline me to pay any further attention to what he says until someone I do respect tells me otherwise. So far there's no evidence of that.

Yet you list him among your primary informants. So from my point of view you inherit his hackishness, at one remove.

As a journalist, you have chosen to invest trust in the wrong sources. What can I do about that?

It seems the best place to start is to ask you how you picked your sources. We claim that you have a consistent habit of getting it wrong.

Dano said...

What Eli said.

These tactics are similar to the FOI requests as a DoS stratagem.

Stop accepting the frame as reasonable and stop wasting time, not that I'm trying to sound postmodern or anything.

Best,

D

Word verif asserts: nocere. Nosirree indeed!

Tom said...

Michael, you think Pielke is a hack. I think that's an unwarranted insult and I don't think I want anything more to do with you. You have quickly descended down the credibility scale--I can understand you questioning my comprehension of science (although you never once in all of this asked me about it, despite several broad hints).

I think you're a blowhard. You think I don't understand science. I don't think you understand uncertainty.

I trust my sources more than I trust you. This is based on their past reliability compared to your hand waving.

For you, 'science' boils down to trusting your position. I don't.

I think we'll have to leave it there, as you are just repeating stuff. As I said earlier, have a nice life. Goodbye.

VicDiesel said...

When danger reared its ugly head,

he bravely turned his tail and fled....

V.

Michael Tobis said...

Regarding farewells:

See you around, Tom!

Some closing points:

1) I identify myself as being in the intellectual tradition of Norbert Wiener, who in turn identifies with Willard Gibbs. Sorry, whatever else that means it doesn't mean being unsophisticated about uncertainty.

2) I have two degrees in statistical communication theory; ditto

3) I am currently primarily supported on a grant to quantify uncertainty in climate models: ditto

4) I have not asserted certainty on the correctness of mainstream climate science. I do sometimes express certainty on the incorrectness of fringe stuff. That is much easier; it's hard to prove things right but some things are easily proven wrong.

5) As I said, science puts being right ahead of being nice. It's necessary to keep the population of charlatans to a manageable level. Being insulting to R P Sr is something I've already done. I am sorry to have to do it. I suspect he is a nice man and means well, but he is wrong and confused.

6) Whether Mr Fuller and I disagree on policy is not very interesting to me. Whether he thinks I am rude is not very interesting to me. Whether he propagates misinformation and disinformation to the public remains a matter of some importance to me, whether he chooses to engage with me or not.

7) Unlike some, I expect (subjective probability 60%) that Mr Fuller means well. But there is that pavement on the road to Hell.

8) Meaning well while being wrong and confused, is epidemic on this subject. Mr. Fuller refuses to take up the particular matter of identifying who is confused with any seriousness. This has substantially reduced my confidence that he means well from 80% to 60%. Defensiveness without any defense is never a good sign.

9) Mr Fuller coyly hints that he has some background in science. Apparently having left us in a Huff (an obscure vehicle for the quick to give offense and quick to take it) he won't tell us what that is. If anyone has seen him mention it elsewhere, please let us know. It's interesting, because it is the Fullerite mistake we need to understand and guard against.

Steve Bloom said...

Just to note that Tom's defense of his understanding of the wv feedback reminds me very much of Eli's favorite quotation fron mid-20th century literature:

"1. There is not nearly as much agreement on water vapor as a forcing as there is on other aspects of climate change.

[Apparently Tom is unclear on the distinction between a feedback and a forcing.]

"2. I find the plain language explanations by scientists who highlight this uncertainty to be more convincing. I can follow the science, pace your team here, but have to be walked through it.

[So he has no independent train of thought on this other than that he likes it when people tell him there's too much uncertainty to draw firm conclusions.]

"3. The non-scientific question that arises, why was a tipping point caused by water vapor not caused by previous warming, seems to me not to be absurd.

[Say what? This is just incoherent.]

"I don't believe that water vapor will be a huge positive forcing because it appears to rain out quickly and interact with cloud formation and duration that seem to serve as natural balancing factors."

[And about this we have more certainty, Tom?]

To say that this is a cloud o' ink indicating little understanding is to state the obvious. That 60% is way too generous, Michael.

Michael Tobis said...

Don't keep us in suspense - which quotation is that?

Hank Roberts said...

Wow. Tease, turn, and run.

Becha he posts new bait over at his blog, hoping to bring visitors in, where they add to his bank account. That's important, in journalism.

EliRabett said...

Eli suspects it's from John Farley although he would settle for this one from Thomas Knutson

David B. Benson said...

Tom Fuller, whom it seems won't be back to read this, would do well to take the time to study "The Discovery of Global Warming" by Spencer Weart.

Patrick said...

I am glad that I asked Tom to speak more on his understanding of the water vapor feedback. If little old me is scratching his head at his response that is not a good sign for Mr. Fuller.

Thanks to Mr. Rabett for his link to John Fuller's article. I have read it before but it is worth reading again.

Pat

Steve Bloom said...

Both of those are good, Eli, but mid-20th century they ain't. *Surely* you recall. If not, may I suggest another drink? :)

Anna Haynes said...

> I can understand you questioning my comprehension of science (although you never once in all of this asked me about it, despite several broad hints).

I shall ask. I've been wanting this info anyway, for Sourcewatch.


Note to MT: please continue with these exchanges; I find them extremely interesting.

Anna Haynes said...

Suggestion/request for y'all, in a "we teach what we most need to learn" kind of way -

Do keep these exchanges excruciatingly on-topic and polite. The "cleaner" they are, the less there is in the exchange to object to (which objections introduce noise), the clearer the portrait.

Dano said...

Low-rent dissemination channel. Not enough talent to be a propagandist. Ignorage is the appropriate action, and ridicule spices up the stew.

Best,

D

Anna Haynes said...

Michael, next could you invite journalist David Rose over for a discussion of Latif's research?

Michael Tobis said...

I'm happy to give any persistent naysayer of any stripe on this blog a feature article for them to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge. I'm awfully tempted to call them all somebody-gate, but I suppose that won;t attract much participation.

Recently we have had two guys who didn't seem to have anything to back up their knowledge. There's also someone calling theirself "Vinny Burgoo", who is a smart cookie. Alas, Vinny seems to be getting the gist of things too quickly to have a really silly sort of argument with.

But I don't know what attracts people to my blog.

The guys who thing we're in the wrong tend to roll up their sleeves, look for a moment like they're settling in for long enough to at least tell us what the heck they're going on about. Then they rush off in a blur before their seat is even warmed up, don't they?

Dano said...

Then they rush off in a blur before their seat is even warmed up, don't they?

Many, many years ago (decades! Gah!), I had an apartment for not long at all where I'd go into the kitchen in the middle of the night, turn on the light, and I could see several cockroaches scurrying away.

Surprisingly, they never had anything useful to say.

Best,

D

Anna Haynes said...

Keep in mind that from here on out, the frame the inactivists will be striving for is the "bullying and arrogance" one.
(and yup, both words were used here)
And expect efforts to, ah, encourage you into saying/doing stuff that can be framed that way.

> ...Then they rush off in a blur before their seat is even warmed up

Because you've passed judgment on them. If instead you continue to phrase your subsequent points as questions, ultra-civilly, that'll take away the reason they've been seizing on for leaving.

(at least, that's what I think, and I'd like to see a more extended exchange, to see how it turns out.)

guthrie said...

Anna Haynes - that approach does not work with your common or garden internet denialists. They'll either manufacture an excuse to flounce off or plough onwards with their ignorance, and it is probably better to get rid of them quickly rather than waste time on them.

On the other hand it may well work for named individuals who have a public presence to maintain, such as we have here.

Steve Bloom said...

The key information about Fuller *was* extracted. His grasp of the science is poor, as demonstrated by the bit I quoted. He finds the science itself too hard (has to be "walked through it") and prefers "plain language" expositions of uncertainty by the likes of RP Sr. If he was really acting as a journalist rather than an advocate with an agenda, he'd have responded to the paleo issue I raised.

Hank Roberts said...

MT to Fuller:

> It seems the best place to
> start is to ask you how
> you picked your sources.

Yep. Sure scared him off!

gravityloss said...

Having done some posting on a libertarian blog, it quickly gets tiring if you're the only one having a scientific point of view, the barrage is quite large in volume even in a relatively small place and it just gets so disgusting you don't want to do it anymore because of that, not because of any change of heart.

Hence I think it should be extra polite here, and less putting words into someone's mouth or assigning sinister motives to them. (I admit having done some of that earlier.)

Eyes on the point. Truth, facts, evidence.

Also, having Tom read Spencer Weart's Discovery of Global Warming is a very good suggestion.

The "water vapor rains out quickly" shows a likely confusion about feedback vs forcing. (At the risk of putting words to someone else's mouth).

For anyone else reading: water vapor is a greenhouse gas. It is a feedback, not a forcing precisely because
1) it rains out quickly
2) but there is a lot of water on the surface, hence when it gets warmer, a lot more evaporates quickly

CO2 is a forcing since it doesn't come out so quickly and if the temperature rises, it doesn't change the amount of CO2 (though slowly it does, but in the short term it's not a feedback), rather humans burn coal and oil and peat and put it in the atmosphere.

Steve Bloom said...

gl, anybody who thinks it's worth their time can proceed to Fuller's blog and engage with him, noting that Bart has done so and gotten no result whatsoever. You make similar points to mine about Fuller's wv confusion, but note that his understanding of the wv feedback is what Fuller pointed to as the basis for his "skepticism."

I read the first few months of Fuller's posts in real time, and frankly it looked to me as if he knew at the beginning where he would end up. IOW, his claim to be intellectual open was simply a ploy, and hardly an original one (Lomborg, Liljegren and McIntyre all use it to varying extents).

gravityloss said...

Yes, I just mean that to an ordinary observer perhaps seeing only this, it doesn't necessarily help if other people know this or that about Fuller's person - it only distracts them and allows him to be a victim, if that is brought in. Anyone can be called evil easily.

If Fuller's key science points can be shown to be completely dead wrong, that is much stronger evidence to any reasonable onlooker.

First argue the assumptions, then the methods and then the motivations, or however it went?

dhogaza said...

Hank:

"Wow. Tease, turn, and run.

Becha he posts new bait over at his blog, hoping to bring visitors in, where they add to his bank account."

Yes, Tom has done this on a variety of blogs (as I imagine Hank has noticed).

Steve Bloom:

"IOW, his claim to be intellectual open was simply a ploy, and hardly an original one (Lomborg, Liljegren and McIntyre all use it to varying extents)."

Yes to this, too. I came to that conclusion after following his blog (and attempting to engage) for a few days.

He's a waste of time. Personally, after figuring out his game, I chose to quit feeding his notion of self-importance and his bank account by ignoring his blog.

Anna:

"Because you've passed judgment on them. If instead you continue to phrase your subsequent points as questions, ultra-civilly, that'll take away the reason they've been seizing on for leaving."

You're assuming two things:

1. Honesty on Tom Fuller's part

2. Our having no prior experience, or at least not enough prior experience, to make an informed judgement about him.

In my case, at least, #2 isn't true, and #2 has led me to reject #1.

Anna Haynes said...

dhogaza says in my saying "[they leave] because you've passed judgment on them.", that I'm "assuming 2 things: ..."

I wasn't weighing in on whether the judgment was appropriate, I was saying that the time/place for it is not when you're engaging in dialog. Try not to co-sign for the Huff.

(and I repeat, this *is* a "we teach what we most need to learn" kind of statement; I too have sinned.)

re Mr. Fuller's above
> "But what on earth gives you the right to pronounce on my capability to write on climate science? Did you investigate my academic background or professional experience?"

I've had an email exchange with Mr. Fuller about his academic background, and added the info to his SourceWatch page.

Deech56 said...

Interesting thread. I thought that one line of Michael’s bears repeating:

"The problem is that you take seriously on the matters of the underlying substance people who ought not to be taken seriously, and you ignore the people who ought to be taken seriously."

We all look for information and there is a sea of conflicting information, from scientific articles to news articles, opinion pieces and web sites. We all make decisions on who to trust and which information to trust, especially since few of us have the depth of knowledge or time to examine fully every claim that is made, so we rely on our ability to discern reliable sources from unreliable sources, which leads us to the next point:

"The only way to avoid being a de facto deoncstructionist, is to acknowledge that who the real experts on a given matter are is a factual question, not a question of inclination or opinion.

"To act is if there were no objective answer to this question is to discount the scientific method entirely. And if you do that, you and your allies will be grossly incapable of coming up with an approach that works.

"Nature always wins. You don't get to elect a new nature. You have to cope with the nature you've got.

"It is the obligation of those who understand what nature is telling us to explain it as well as we can. It is the obligation of those who don't, to admit that they don't."


What seems blindingly obvious to a scientist seems to be hidden from many non-scientists, and attempts to explain this leads to charges of "elitism" and "arrogance".

An unrelated point is whether there is some sort of "extra credit" for being a maverick - a Fuller or a Cockburn. Maybe a way to claim independence or self-importance - I don't know.

Anna Haynes said...

For those who want more, Fuller responded to the above exchange on his blog jan. 12 with this post; and Bart has a boiled-down extended dialogue with Fuller here, where TF dispenses advice on strategy.

Anna Haynes said...

An interesting pair of writings from Mr. Fuller. Bear with me...

First, a comment here at Chez Tobis:

"...Trust is earned, not given, and is earned by frank and honest talk that includes admission of uncertainty and error. The public communicators of scientific information that I have trusted in the past--Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, etc.--do not seem to have replacements in the modern world. ..."

Later, a comment (by Fuller) on his "Global warming food fight--conclusion" Examiner blog post ("...My final remark to Tobis was that he was a blowhard and I didn't want anything more to do with him..."):

"I do trust people who communicate honestly and who listen. As I wrote on Tobis' garbage heap, I trusted people like Carl Sagan and Steven Jay Gould when I was young--there ain't nobody writing like they did these days."

Exercise for the reader: which science communicator has been dropped from the dead-and-trusted pantheon?

Answer: the live one, who can still weigh in on climate change.
Hawking warns: We must recognise the catastrophic dangers of climate change

Anna Haynes said...

s/dead-and-trusted/trusted (but regrettably deceased, and much missed)/

Anna Haynes said...

For the record, I notified Mr. Fuller of my "Where's Stephen Hawking?" comment above, and asked that he explain, if I'd wrongly jumped to conclusions about why his "trusted science communicators" list no longer included climate alarm-raiser Hawking.

(Also for the record, the response: I am not to notify Mr. Fuller of anything ever again.)

Anna Haynes said...

YouTube vid. of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan on the Greenhouse Effect