General Science


Another attack on Michael Mann, but not because of some error he’s made in his science, but because he’s tired of being the target of bullshit attacks.

Michael Mann, the Father of the Hockey Stick graph — you know, the one where they had to “hide the decline” — seems to have a predilection for making implausible claims. Mann has sued the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Mark Steyn for libel, under the legal theory that he should not be subject to “public figure” rules, because he was “an involuntary public figure.” He explains the tragedy of his becoming a “target” in an essay published in The Scientist.

Aside from complaining that Mann is suing or libel, the author of this blog entry can’t even get the facts of a debunked denialist meme correct. He apparently still believes the ‘decline’ was of temperatures and used in the ‘Hockey stick graph’ even though it has been shown several times by different people that neither point is correct.

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Apparently, using science to debunk climate change denial arguments isn’t allowed, because the arguments are all from the supposedly falsified general circulation models (GCM) and thereby falsified themselves. I suppose the thinking goes along the following lines – if the GCMs fail, and they contain a number of algorithms based on physics, chemistry and thermodynamics, then those algorithms must also be wrong.

Aside from the fact most of the math, lab experiments and conclusions used in climate science were made decades ago, and in at least one case more than a century ago, the whole argument sounds an awful lot like the Fallacy of Division. I doubt that make any difference in the minds of the righteous anti-science groupies, but I’m going to take a run at it anyway.

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After making a quick visit to a blog I was introduced to on Twitter, and noticing the incredible number of errors I decided to take just a short segment of it and see how many corrections I could make to the information. This post is the result of examining just two paragraphs a little more closely than I did in my first perusal.

The quotes are taken directly from the blog, and I’ve included a link to it so context can be checked.

“What we don’t know is there might not be any evidence to back it up because much of the evidence has been “adjusted” to support the global warming craze.”

Any adjustments that have been made to temperatures have been made to account for UHI, altitude, where temperatures are affected by the lapse rate, and to remove outliers, whether they are too high or too low. All adjustments have been documented in peer reviewed journals and their functionality reviewed by independent scientists.

“What we do know is that our planet has supported life for thousands of years and we do not have nearly as much positive or negative impact on it as we are led to believe. ”

Life has existed on land for at least 350,000,000 years, and has experienced 21 different mass die outs. Our concern is the ecology as it stands today, and how rapid changes will affect not just the biosphere but human culture. Adaptation takes time, and rapid change can result in conditions even humans can find difficult.

Nobody has ever claimed we have direct control of the climate. What we do have is control over a source of CO2 that has been segregated from the normal carbon cycle for several million years. In complex systems even small changes, if made in the right area, can have large consequences. The world’s most potent poison, Clostridium botulinum, doesn’t kill through volume – it only takes 0.4 billionth of a gram per kilogram of weight to kill – but through which biological system it affects. CO2 does something similar. All radiation from the sun that doesn’t get reflected back to space has its frequency changed to the UV band. CO2 is invisible to almost all radiation but UV. This means that non-UV radiation coming to Earth bypasses CO2 but after that radiation is converted to UV it gets absorbed by CO2 on the way back out to space.

“The key factor of the global warming argument, critically concentrated Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere, is a fallacy because our planet’s ecosystem would actually do better in concentrated CO2 environments.”

This comment is a fallacy. It’s a straw man argument. Ecologies adapt extremely well, but they do so on geological time frames, not human time frames. We’re concerned with the next several hundred years, not the next several thousand years.

Not all plants improve with increased CO2. Aside from that, the biggest problem with this argument is the effect rising temperatures have on climate patterns. For plants to benefit from increased CO2, both ground nitrogen and available H2O have to keep pace with the increased CO2. Without those two other molecules increased CO2 does little to nothing.

“Some greenhouses even use a warming technique to improve the growth rates of their plants.”

The warming is to encourage growth in plants that have evolved in tropical environments. Those same greenhouses frequently add CO2. Those same greenhouses also supply extra water and nitrogen. See above.

“Our oceans help to regulate the atmospheric temperature and keep it balanced. We have nothing to do with this process and research scientists know that.”

The reason the ocean regulates the temperature is because its mass is far greater than that of the atmosphere, it takes far longer to heat up and cool off than the atmosphere or even the land does. However if the oceans do heat up, as they are, then the only regulation they’ll do is to warm the atmosphere even more. The oceans also regulate the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by absorbing CO2, until it warms up to a point where less CO2 is being absorbed than being released.

The Earth’s carbon balance has varied by no more than a couple of dozen ppmv from the mean of 280 ppmv for more than 50 million years. By releasing carbon that has been sequestered from the atmosphere since at least that time, we’ve boosted the atmospheric concentration to 400 ppmv

I used to listen to John Gormley and Chuck Adler just to see what the right was up to at the time, but I can no longer stomach the bullshit they hand out. According to them, ever problem with society, real and perceived, is due to liberal control since the ’60s. Then they whine about how everything the liberals do is an attempt to blame someone else for personal problems.
I long ago gave up on keeping my irony-meter functional, so this bit of raw irony didn’t do any damage.

Bugs had it right – what a maroon!

A Swiss scientist by the name of Urs Neu has compiled a short (32 pages) easy to understand rebuttal of the more common recent denier talking points. Unlike the common denialist, each point in Urs Neu’s paper references the primary literature. What a novel idea.

You can find the paper here.

It seems denialists have trouble with probabilities, except of course when some Denialist Commander-in-Chief puts together an attack on a scientist using questionable statistical analysis, then they all know exactly how it all works. They are bloody good at building straw man arguments though, so to them any severe weather event is an example of the ‘warmists’ (thats me) claiming a single event as proof of global warming.

To find out how Dr. Neu answers that you’re going to have to download and read the paper.

While you have it open on your desktop, you might as well read the whole thing.

(Hat tip to Eli Rabbit)

A question asked of me by a creationist.
“And by your lights, blindly accepting your word on scientific work is OK.

My short answer.

Hardly. I expect those that read my posts, if they are so inclined, to investigate the content of my posts. The vast majority of evos are quite scrupulous in posting links to sites that contain accurate information and cites to the primary literature. No evo expects you or anyone else to accept what we say ‘blindly’. However, many times we are castigated for the number of links our posts contain so, at least in my case, the number of links has markedly dropped. If you wish to explore paths to the primary literature I suggest you visit PatrickHenry’s home page here or Ichneumon’s home page here.

As stated above I *expect* readers of my posts to further investigate the content, not to accept what I say blindly.

“Maybe Coulter is wrong on this issue – but if “objective” journalism happens to be right about it, it is the merest of accidents. A case of a stopped clock happening to be right for a moment, twice a day. Because “objective” journalism has motive to promote evolution simply because it tears at the reputations of people who oppose cynicism.

That Coulter is in error in her attack on evolution is most assured. That the journalists, whether objective or not, have picked up on those errors and consequently listened to the scientists that actually do the work and know a great deal more than Coulter and her sources, is no accident. In most instances you would be correct about the value of journalistic information, however in this case those in the know have been vocal enough to attract the eyes and ears of journalists. If you doubt those that are refuting Coulter, don’t take their word for it – go to the primary literature.

“And although you may well believe yourself to be smarter than me (and that isn’t impossible), I credit journalism with cunning but not with the ability to understand science better than I do. They make far too many elementary mistakes for that.

My criticism of the content of your original post is not based on my opinion that I am more intelligent than you (I suspect the exact opposite) but on the errors in the information contained by that one site. Everything that I read at that site was a rehash of common creationist/IDist strawman arguments that have been repeatedly refuted in popular science articles written by scientists and based on primary literature.

When speaking to science, the vast majority of journalists brazenly expose their ignorance. No one should ‘blindly’ accept what they say. Fortunately, the Web makes it relatively easy to access the primary literature or at the very least, popularizations of it written by working scientists.

The claim that ‘science’ is suppressing dissent is an argument that pseudoscience presents as a matter of course. In the case of ID the reasons are the same – the work simply is not of sufficient depth and quality to be published by a reputable science journal.

When mutations were originally suggested as the major source of allele variety at the beginning of the 20th century, much the work was rejected because it was incomplete. As the work improved it was gradually accepted. When S. J. Gould suggested Punctuated Equilibrium, his words of dissent were listened to because of the work he and Eldridge put into the theory. Eventually, as the theory fleshed out, more and more biologists accepted it as an evolutionary process. Even today there are not a few that question the role PE actually plays in the overall Evolutionary picture.

Dissent is *not* stifled, if the work behind it passes the various checks and balances built into the methodology. The ID work done by Behe and by Dembski have been reviewed by a fair number of scientists outside of journals and have been shown to be low in quality. One review of Dembski’s work (Elsberry & Shallit) went so far as to provide corrections to the paper.

The majority of work done by the DI fellows has consisted of publicity not science. Any and all of the science that has been produced by the DI fellows that has been published has not been about ID. The only method they have thus far presented to identify and differentiate design in the natural world from the purely undesigned has failed in the very few instances it has been applied.

If the DI and its fellows want to be accepted as science they need to step up to the plate and produce some original, publishable work. Work that necessarily survives the same trials and tribulations that the evolutionary sciences have undergone.

Just ask any working scientist if they have had papers rejected at least once by the journals and I suspect you will find that the vast majority have suffered that embarrassment at some point in their career. I have an acquaintance who is very intelligent (more so than I, I’m afraid) that had one paper returned twice for corrections before it was deemed publishable. Published papers are routinely torn apart by other scientists. The scientific process is very adversarial.

Why should IDists be excused from that process? Should their work not stand on its own merits rather than be promoted through political means?

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