"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chris Mooney Responds to Will in Washington Post

As the newsy types among you probably already know, Chris Mooney has managed to convince the Washington Post to run a rebuttal to George Will's nonsense. It is a short piece, but it shouldn't be read the way you'd read a couple of typical paragraphs of blogging; it's a very polished, well-thought-out little gem of an essay. The bulk of it takes on some of Wills' most egregious errors, but the opening and closing paragraphs are what make it memorable:
A recent controversy over claims about climate science by Post op-ed columnist George F. Will raises a critical question: Can we ever know, on any contentious or politicized topic, how to recognize the real conclusions of science and how to distinguish them from scientific-sounding spin or misinformation?
Yes. That is indeed the question.
Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists -- following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It's also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be -- now more than ever.
Yes again! That is pretty much the only answer I've ever been able to come up with. 

Kudos and thanks to Chris for getting this in the Post!

PS - Already over 100 comments! Some of the naysayer comments are amusing, if you are used to this sort of thing.

PPS - Adam Siegel has some interesting meta-comments on the DKos site (he remains critical of the Post) and a huge plethora of links on the whole business.


Dano said...

Selection bias is a powerful tool to maintain the relevance of your self-identity. Chris doesn't call this out explicitly, but it is there. We are just beginning to study the effects of such selection bias (ask me some day about the story of the postdoc studying this phenomenon), and have a long way to go to counter it. Will we respond in time? Don't look to history if you want optimism.



Unknown said...

Completely off topic... you might be interested that Roger Pielke Jr. has a completely ridiculous post up in the last day or so. I won't give him the benefit of a link, but the title is "Comparing Annual Absolute Growth in Carbon Dioxide Concentrations with GDP", and the central graph stupidly compares the annual increment in atmospheric CO2 with the annual *change* in world GDP.

As if current CO2 levels were in equilibrium with current world GDP, or something? Doesn't the guy understand the difference between integral and differential quantities? Of course the dots are all over the map, naturally. What a surprise. I really should quit dropping in on his site to avoid the stupidity, but just couldn't let this one go, oh well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Arthur,

That isn't a site I generally go to. I have no idea what Pielke was even getting at with that post.

Anonymous said...

"following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence."

As my old mother used to say, "If wishes were horses beggars would ride". For example, how high would Profs. Hansen, Mann and Jones score in such a test, I wonder?

And what is one to do as a non-scientific outsider when another huge professorial brainbox by the name of Akasofu writes this:

"It is advised that the IPCC recognize at least the failure of their prediction even during the first decade of the present century; a prediction is supposed to become less accurate for the longer future.

I suppose the only intelligent thing to do is to read as much as you can from both sides and then use your judgment. Well, it's what I did and I'm really, really intelligent - my old mum used to tell me so - and as a result I would triple-check Hansen if he told me the time!

Nosmo said...

Although Mooney raises good points, it is a really poorly written piece. It could have been much more powerful.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

David Duff:

"For example, how high would Profs. Hansen, Mann and Jones score in such a test, I wonder?"

Or, paraphrased: 'I've not read James Hansen's scientific works, so I'll just throw out some silly questions them to show you how much I've refused to read them.'

Maybe Duff doesn't realize it, but that's exactly the mindset that Mooney is up against.

-- bi

Anonymous said...

Well, 'Bi', I did read all about his, er, 20-year 'forecast' for global temperatures which turned out to be, how may I put it politely, wrong? - innacurate? - grossly exaggerated? - alarmist? - I leave it to you to choose. To paraphrase, 'by their forecasts shall ye know them'!

And by the way, I also read some of his recent remarks concerning his views on people who disagree with him and how he thinks the state should treat them. Indicative, I would say.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

"And by the way, I also read some of his recent remarks"

Gish Gallop. Don't do that.

"Well, 'Bi', I did read all about his, er, 20-year 'forecast'"

"Read all about"? What's that supposed to mean? Do you mean to say you read about James Hansen's scientific work from lots of people who are not James Hansen?

-- bi

Anonymous said...

Always happy to be corrected, Bi, so Hansen didn't make a forecast?

Anonymous said...

Strictly, Hansen didn't give forecasts but gave some scenarios.

The different scenarios a had different emissions and volcano activities.


Scenario B turned out to reflect the real world quite well.

AFAIK, probably the model had too high sensitivity since it had 4.2 C for doubling.


EliRabett said...

It's amazing that the rubes are still clueless about how Honest Jim Hansen did it. RTFR clowns