The Pragmatic Skeptic

I read some of this earlier, and hadn’t intended to post on it but now that I’ve read the complete version of the interview, this is very much worth reading.   Anthony Watts gave an interview to PBS whereby he made  a very accurate case for what makes myself and others climate skeptics.   The reality is nothing like the caricature Lewandowsky, Real Climate, Tamino, Skeptical Science and many other pro-government extremists would express to the world.   He did an excellent job and it is very much worth reading.   Others were involved too in a more complete interview published at WUWT, but like Mullers silly (and unscientific) statement that he somehow knows 100% of the measured  warming is human caused, they just confused the issues involved.    I’m not sure Muller ever really grocked the skeptic position in the first place.

Anyway, here is the link to the Anthony Watts interview.


22 thoughts on “The Pragmatic Skeptic

  1. One thing is certain – The environment around fossil fuel based power / steal/ cement units etc. gets polluted and also turns hot. The skeptics don’t say what the released GHGs cause / change / undergo.

  2. The Muller stuff drove me crazy. I left this at WUWT on the full transcript:

    Jeff Condon says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    September 18, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I would like to nominate this for unscientific quote of the month:

    “RICHARD MULLER, University of California, Berkeley: In our world, we attribute the warming from 1753 to the present essentially exclusively to humans — not mostly, but exclusively.”

    Just what sort of tea leaves did he pull that nonsense from? How did he prove that the earth isn’t damping the effect and it is actually worse? How does he know what the oceans did vs human at all?

    I thought he was a scientist. When you read statements from Elizibeth saying that they were surprised the record showed warming, just what the hell did they think it showed? Don’t they read? Is that an admission that they believed multiple global temp records were pure fabrications? I don’t know anyone who made that stupid claim.

    They demonstrate shocking ignorance of climate science followed by a new shockingly ignorant claim in quotes. Seems to me that they might want to stop talking before they say something even stupider.

    I really dislike loud people who are ignorant and that is what this is. Pure ignorance on display.

    1. It may have been a little harsh but the best way to take their comment is that they don’t know what they are talking about. If they do know, then this was done with other intent.

      1. Jeff,
        The operant phrase might be “In our world …” For some reason, maybe my mistaken reading, Steven Mosher seems to defend this guy. Why?

        Muller’s statement makes me think him another alarmist crackpot.

        It will be interesting to see what J. Curry has to say on this subject.

    2. It may seem like just semantics, but I wouldn’t call it ignorance.
      There is no lack of education, knowledge or awareness.
      It’s just a refusal to accept any belief but their own.

  3. Thanks, Jeff. I left this comment:

    I am not a friend of Anthony Watts, but he represents well the concerns that many reputable scientists have with the global warming story of Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC.

    This 2002 paper with two respected scientists explains our concerns [“Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate,” Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002)] before the Climategate scandal broke in 2009.

    My concerns have increased after watching official responses to evidence that global temperature data had been manipulated to support the AGW story:

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  4. Jeff,

    I first saw Muller in the video where he criticizes “hide the decline” but misunderstands what was really done. Then we heard about BEST, he wrote the first of his really idiotic op-ed pieces and it started rolling farther and farther south. I said after the first op-ed that he was an idiot. Perhaps about harsh. He really seems to be incredibly naive and unsophisticated, yet afflicted with a near terminal case of hubris.

    My ‘best’ guess is that he is a smart academic who has fooled himself into thinking that he is smarter than everyone about everything. All he has to do is read up a bit on a topic and he thinks he’s mastered it. Probably has a very low opinion of others generally. He clearly has no clue about politics, public relations, or economics. None.

    The real problem is not that he’s made a bozo of himself (see also Mann, Jones, et al). The problem is the cult of expert worship that places high value on the ignorant mutterings of the deluded simply because they have a PhD and/or have developed a reputation.

    1. I’m afraid that once someone develops the kind of hubris that Muller has demonstrated, they have lost any future scientific potential whatsoever. You have to distance yourselves from the result in order to see the data. Without naming anyone, many here on this blog are guilty of the same. Something my detractors have never realized is that some of us are pretty good at what we do, YET have been wrong often enough that we can still accept it. Academics are very often separated from that experience these days and we get the Mann’s and apparently Muller’s who no longer can be wrong.

      Muller has yet to address my statistical critique of his jackknife methods in BEST. Not even a single email to say he’s considering it. Nothing.

      I do know I’m right and their CI’s are based on nonsense but they may still be similar in magnitude. If they are, it is by luck rather than understanding of what they did.

      When he and his daughter write the stuff I put in this thread, they shows a flatly stunning ignorance of the questions which exist not only in the skeptic world but also in the mainstream world. Hell, Bart Verheggen even wonders how much warming is human vs CO2. To claim you know the answer, without a model, without a real consideration……..

      I don’t have much respect for them at this point. If they come by and give a scientific rationale for the utter stupidity, perhaps we can argue some pendantic saving point, but they will have a very hard time catching my attention even if they claim to develop warp drive next week.

      1. Jeff,

        Don’t know if you are a baseball or sports fan, but you should be familiar with Bill James who started the whole sabermetric movement (that Moneyball does an awful job of portraying) which has now had an impact on all kinds of pro sports. James gave a talk at his alma mater, Kansas U. where he majored in econ and english, that everyone should see. He’s not a very good speaker, but he talks about how all his research is due to his ignorance and how fortunate he is that his supply of ignorance is never ending. It’s all about asking questions that you are curious about. For example, one of his early questions (4 decades ago) was whether stealing bases was valuable. There seemed to be no correlation between teams which stole a lot or a little and their records. All the supposedly knowledgeable baseball people said stealing was important, but was it really? He had no idea. But he thought he’d check.

        Someone once said that the first step on the path to wisdom is the recognition of our own ignorance. If we understand that and use that understanding to fuel our genuine curiosity (i.e. honest research) we are fortunate indeed and society much the better for our work.

        If only we could bring James’ attitude about embracing ignorance together with the Columbia prof who reminds all his science students that everything he teaches them is wrong …..

  5. Jeff,

    “I’m not sure Muller ever really grocked the skeptic position in the first place.”

    Muller in Grist interview:

    “Oh yes. [Laughs.] In fact, back in the early ’80s, I resigned from the Sierra Club over the issue of global warming. At that time, they were opposing nuclear power. What I wrote them in my letter of resignation was that, if you oppose nuclear power, the U.S. will become much more heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and that this is a pollutant to the atmosphere that is very likely to lead to global warming.”

    Don’t sound like he was ever sceptical to me. He was an alarmist before the data was in!!

    1. I don’t think he has figured out that serious skeptics don’t question that there was a temp rise. They question the quality of the temperature measurement, the attribution to CO2, the quality of the future projections and the fake solutions.

      It seems to me that his intent was to make the temperature record the key issue for the skeptics and then declare the problem solved because he managed to do his own version – for 600K. I would never sell my scientific thinking to such a flatly disingenuous purpose. He set his own straw man and produced his own answer.

      I have zero respect at this point.

      This is about magnitude of warming, not whether it exists.

      This is about impact of warming, not whether it exists.

      This is about reasoned reaction to warming, not shutting down economies and not sierra club nonsense.

  6. Jeff,
    In your comment (#3) you nail Muller’s “Ex-Cathedra” statements that lack supporting evidence.

    Then you flagellate yourself for being a “little harsh”.

    From my point of view you were showing admirable retraint in your criticism of a study that was the poster child for narcissism and grandstanding.

    When it come to Richard Muller, the right question was posed by Clara Peller:

    1. I’m just mad at all of the world’s nonsense so when Muller piles on with nutty conclusions from a global temp average, I get overly-angry. Hell, the fact that people think Obama might even possibly be a semi-reasonable choice for president is far worse. But they do.

      It isn’t healthy to go around hating half the worlds inability to think. It certainly isn’t going to change anytime soon.

      1. It may not be healthy to go around hating half the world’s inability to think, but if hating it makes you recognize that it needs to be changed and helps you think of ways to help make it change (hopefully sooner rather than later, although I don’t blame you for thinking it won’t change anytime soon), then I think it is a good thing.

        Wow… what a long-winded sentence… but you got my drift hopefully.

        Hopefully when people drop by and read this blog you succeed in lessening the stupidity of the world at least somewhat, so in that respect I find your blog highly worthwhile.

        In my opinion it would be a lot LESS healthy if you didn’t care that half the world lacked the ability to think. Hating it seems a pretty healthy reaction really….

    1. Steve,

      James, in the video of his talk to a class at KU that I can no longer find, remarks that he thinks his work as an English major was extremely helpful to his research. Writing well requires solid thinking. I suppose this is similar to the thought expressed by Feynman or Einstein that if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

      I’ve written before that there is a quality to many of your posts, especially those involving FOIA, that many lawyers would be advised to adopt. I wonder if sometimes you aren’t tempted to put “Q.E.D.” before your summary sentence — having relentlessly and methodically established each element of the “proof” the only logical conclusion left for the reader must be X.

      I wish there were some way to teach young researchers the value of humility over hubris, the value of ignorance over certainty, and the importance of embracing paradox and understanding the process of wisdom.

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