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James Delingpole blogs about Simon Singh

January 29, 2011

James Delingpole criticised me in this blog (“The curious double standards of Simon Singh”) after an exchange on Twitter. He then asked: “Can you answer reasonably, fairly, honestly?” Yes, I can.

To make it interesting, I tried to find 10 flaws in the article in 10 minutes. In fact, it took me only 5 minutes to find the flaws, but 20 minutes to write corrections. (There are other flaws, and you can find them pointed out in other comments on Delingpole’s blog.) Quotes from Delingpole’s blog are in blue.

1.      “Yet in the opinion of Singh, the worldwide Climate Change industry is the one area where the robust scepticism and empiricism he professes to believe in just doesn’t apply.”

No – where I have said this? Climate change is an area that requires extreme skepticism, i.e., questioning and challenging. However, despite all the challenges, the climate change consensus remains solid. (By the way, I thought Professor Nurse explained this to you quite clearly and slowly.)

2.      “Apparently, the job of a journalist is just to accept the word of “the scientists” and take it as read that being as they are “scientists” their word is God and it brooks no questioning or dissent.”

No – where have I said this? I have been a science journalist for almost two decades and where there are differing opinions it is important to consider the overall evidence. And, having been a scientist for a short time (PhD, particle physics), I realise that nobody should be treated as a god.

3.      “That’s it. Finished. There’s a “consensus” on global warming. It’s immutable and correct.”

No – where have I said this? In fact, you must have seen my tweet this afternoon: “I might be wrong, the climate consensus might be wrong, but the probability that the consensus is correct is +90% on the key points.”

4.      “And anyone who disputes it is a vexatious denier informed by nothing but ignorance.”

No – where have I said this? I accept that there is a very small minority of experts who do not accept the broad consensus, as is the case with every aspect of fairly solid science, from MMR to the Big Bang. As for non-experts, my views are clear from a piece I published previously on climate change: “However, those who continue to deny this conclusion (confirmed climate numpties) may wish to consider my revised version of an observation made by the technology journalist Kenneth Cukier in a different context. I would suggest that people who take part in the climate change debate are all intelligent, honourable and reject manmade climate change, but they never possess more than two of these qualities at once. For example, columnists who regularly reject climate change possess the third quality, which means they cannot be both intelligent and honourable. Next time you read a climate numpty columnist you might want to think about whether he or she is dishonourable or unintelligent. The divide is probably 50/50.”

5.      “What sickens me is the hypocrisy of people who claim to be in favour of speech, claim to believe in empiricism, claim to be sceptics yet refuse to accept room for an honest, open debate on one of the most important political issues of our time.”

No – where have I said this? All I have done is disagree with you, point out your lack of qualifications and mock you. I did not threaten to silence you or sue you. In fact, my approach was quite the opposite – you must have seen my tweet this afternoon encouraging further debate: “V happy for me & climate expert to meet you to discuss consensus, record it & put it in online unedited.”

6. “And just this afternoon, Simon Singh – purported defender of free speech; enemy of junk science – joined the ranks of those disgraceful hypocrites with a message on Twitter. Here’s what he Tweeted:
** Sorry, but @JamesDelingpole deserves mockery ‘cos he has the arrogance to think he knows more of science than a Nobel Laureate*
Is that the message Singh really took from the BBC’s Horizon documentary? When did I ever make that claim?”

First of all, it was not just “a message on twitter”, but rather several tweets, including six messages addressed to you. This included an acknowledgement that nobody is a 100% sure and an invitation to discuss this issue. I think my most insightful tweet alluded to the likelihood that you suffer from the Dunning–Kruger effect (whereby unskilled people reach flawed conclusions, but are not smart enough or knowledgeable enough to realise their mistakes.)

To answer your question and explain my tweet; you denied Nurse’s explanation of the role of consensus in science and you dismissed Nurse’s perfectly valid analogy about consensus … so you do indeed seem to think you are in a better position than Nurse to understand how science operates.

7.      “What I am saying, and I say almost every day, is that the evidence is not as robust as the “consensus” scientists claim”

Okay, that’s what you say. James Delingpole, English graduate. You might be right.

Those who think that the consensus is very likely to be valid include, as far as I know, all of the following and more:
Paul Nurse, Ben Goldacre and myself, who you have come up against this week (but we are very small fry).
Editors of the world’s foremost science journals, Science and Nature.
The most senior science editors in UK national broadsheet newspapers.
The overwhelming majority of science Nobel Laureates.
All the world’s national academy’s of science.
The overwhelming majority of climate scientists.

Also, I must stress that all of the people/groups above will have questions about elements of the consensus and realisethat the models have uncertainties, but they also agree that the broad consensus is very likely (90%) to be correct. In short, the uncertainties are small enough to derive some fairly solid conclusions.

8.  “Yet despite apparently knowing nothing more about me and what I do than he has learned from a heavily politicised BBC documentary, and maybe heard from his mob of Twitter bully chums or read in the Guardian, Singh feels able to decide that Paul Nurse is right on this issue and I’m wrong.”

No – I have followed your rants for quite a while from afar.  I am not saying that Paul Nurse is right and you are wrong. Instead, both Paul Nurse and I are saying that we are not convinced by your views, but we are convinced by the sheer weight of evidence behind the consensus that has gathered over the course of three decades

9.      “But what I can’t abide any more is what has been happening all this week, irresponsibly orchestrated by Sir Paul Nurse, the BBC and their dishonest, ferociously lopsided “documentary”:

No – my tweets were not orchestrated. I doubt Ben’s were either. Do you mean “triggered”?

10.  “the frenzied witch-hunt of a journalist and blogger who has done no more than journalists and bloggers should be doing in a free and open society.”

The problem is not that you have “done no more than journalists and bloggers should be doing”, but that you appear to have done substantially less. When writing about a scientific issue, you should have at least worked hard to understand some of the basic science in particular and the scientific method more generally.

Perhaps I can end with a point alluded to by pabloreale on your blog comments. It seems that you respected me until I disagreed with you. It seems that you respected Ben Goldacre until he disagreed with you. And I suspect that you respected Sir Paul Nurse until he disagreed with you. Who is going to the next person to lose your respect? David Allen Green? The Chief Government Scientist? The previous Chief Government Scientist. The Chief Government Scientist before the previous one? The previous President of the Royal Society? Ed Milliband? Nick Clegg? David Cameron? David Attenborough?

 

 

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146 Comments
  1. Dave H permalink

    @Bishop Hill> it’s also true that the temperature hasn’t gone up since 2000.And does that claim pass muster in terms of statistical significance? After all, its been shown time and again that short trends like that are generally useless for determining signal from noise. Indeed, just below you, Nullus repeats the well-worn quote from Jones re: statistical significance of the trend since 1995. In fact, since that quote was mined, the trend since 1995 to the present is significant at the 99% level. The trend over just the last 15 years is also significant at the 95% level. That timepoint was selected (with the shocking help of Richard Lindzen) precisely because it was the longest time period that *just barely* failed the statistical significance test. This tells you nothing about science, or the existence or magnitude of an upward trend, and everything about the willingness of certain AGW-detractors to engage in empty political point scoring.Meanwhile, the fact that a trend that historically required 30 years of data to discern a reliabile trend from is now showing a statistically significant upward trend in just half that amount of time would – you’d think – be something worth scrutiny, rather than just choosing shorter time periods and pretending there is no upward trend.

  2. Bishop Hill permalink

    DaveNo I’m quite clear that the IPCC’s prediction is not falsified at a high confidence level. I quoted the trend over the last ten years in support of my statement that the trend since 2000 made the predictions look not very clever. The shortness of the period is a function of the time elapsed since the forecast was issued. How long you need to falsify the prediction depends of course on how divergent the actual trend is.The trend over the last ten years could be coincidence of course, and we could see some warming in the coming years that would bring the trend back on course. But if things keep going the way they are (it’s a big if, obviously) then the IPCC prediction will be falsified in due course.I’m not sure why you are banging on at me about isolated instrumental trends. These can’t really tell us anything about the hypothesis that warming is anthropogenic. You need the model predictions to do that, and at the moment they are not looking good.

  3. Nullius in Verba permalink

    <i>"Meanwhile, the fact that a trend that historically required 30 years of data to discern a reliabile trend from is now showing a statistically significant upward trend in just half that amount of time would – you’d think – be something worth scrutiny"</i>Excellent point! Let’s scrutinise it! Where did that 30-year figure come from, how was it calculated, and on what basis do we say that the trends so measured are "reliable"? Why not, for example, say that we need a 60 year trend, or a 100-year trend to draw any conclusions? Why 30?Statistics does in fact have something to say on this matter. The issue is to determine the autocorrelation structure of the data, modelling the statistical properties of the "meaningless" weather noise so that one can distinguish it from any putative signal. The first test required is a unit root test, to determine if the time series is stationary, as different sets of techniques are applicable to stationary and non-stationary data. In fact, as several researchers have found, the temperature data fails to reject a unit root at the century scale, meaning there are quite likely to be spurious trends from "weather noise" even when averaged over such a period. Against such a null, not even the 100-year trend is significant. Even an AR(1) null is barely rejected.The truth is that trends are a meaningless concept for autocorrelated data of this sort, and to the extent that they can be defined as an empirical calculable quantity, can only be observed in retrospect. You can never say that you know the world is still warming, because you simply don’t have the data to be able to tell. The ten-year trend says it wasn’t warming around five years ago, the thirty-year trend says it was warming around 15 years ago. Neither statement is more justifiable than the other, or says anything at all about whether there is an anthropogenic component to it.But you proved my point – as soon as Phil Jones says something you disagree with, you’ll argue with it. Why would you expect us to accept his unquestionable authority if you won’t?

  4. Dave H permalink

    > I’m not sure why you are banging on at me about isolated instrumental trends. Because you’re the one misusing them. You ought to know that multi-decadal forecasts are not reliably verifiable within 10 years. Your statements such as this:> at the moment they are not looking good.Cannot be made when you just use 2000 as a starting point. Your statement fails the same statistical significance test that the 1995+ trend that Jones referred to. All you can say is:"There is not yet enough data since 2000 to reliably discern a trend, given the noise in the data".Which, you know, is absolutely expected. To leap on it as a "gotcha" is pretty inexplicable for someone who claims to know something about how all this works. Now what you *could* do simplistically is take a 30-year trend from 1980 – 2010 and see whether the last decade matches the IPCC forecasts since 2000…Incidentally, ignoring data that is available that contradicts one’s claims (the available data pre-2000) is what all the fuss about "hide the decline" refers to, wasn’t it? As an aside, the model forecasts tell us very little about whether AGW is occurring or expected. All they really tell us is how good the models are at representing the way the climkate system actually works. You’re also misusing the word hypothesis.

  5. Nullius in Verba permalink

    "looking good" = "reliably verified"?

  6. Dave H permalink

    > Where did that 30-year figure come from, how was it calculated, and on what basis do we say that the trends so measured are "reliable"? Why not, for example, say that we need a 60 year trend, or a 100-year trend to draw any conclusions? Why 30?Tangential, but my understanding is that this standard dates back something like 100 years, and that 30 years is (as much as anything) an old rule of thumb in statistics about 30 datapoints being necessary. That said I do recall a post at Tamino’s a couple of years ago where he analysed the variance in the historical record and came to the conclusion that 15 is the *bare minimum* that could theoretically be used to discern a statistically significant trend.> But you proved my point – as soon as Phil Jones says something you disagree with, you’ll argue with it. Why would you expect us to accept his unquestionable authority if you won’t?I’ll charitably assume you misread my post, so I’ll explain again. What Jones said was absolutely correct. It was also basically meaningless – which he himself pointed out and I also agree with. He even expanded upon this at the time to explain his statement. So – do I agree with Jones’ assessment that the longest possible range of data that produces a trend that fails the 95% significance test *does indeed* fail that test? Yes I do. I also agree with his statement that to go from this to the claim that there is no warming over that period is plain wrong.Once again, I’m amazed at the willingness of certain people to uncritically repeat this stuff (for months on end, in many different forums) while lambasting others for their purported lack of scrutiny.The "accept his unquestionable authority" thing is your own projection, and the reasoning is both bizarre and circular.

  7. Spence permalink

    Dave says: "Now what you *could* do simplistically is take a 30-year trend from 1980 – 2010 and see whether the last decade matches the IPCC forecasts since 2000…"I say: no, that would not be a good test, because you are not testing your model against out-of-sample data. See the following document, "misuses of statistical analysis in climate research", part of a book by climate scientist Hans von Storch, and read the section about the Mexican hat:http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/pdf/misuses.pdfAs Dr. von Storch explains, the only meaningful test of a model is on out-of-sample data. If you claim there is insufficient data to perform an out-of-sample test, then there is little point in testing the model until you reach that point. It would be meaningful to look at predictions from a 1980 run over the period 1980-2010, and if we could agree to do that it might be something of interest. It is impossible to get a meaningful significance value from a 2000 run using a trend from before that.As for significance, as Nullius in Verba points out above, arguably even the trend from 1850 to present cannot be shown to be statistically significant without making crude assumptions about natural variability which have little or no evidential support. The primary issue here is how to deal with the structure present in natural variability. Whilst you can crunch the numbers assuming AR(1) autoregressive model, this may not reflect the true structure of natural variability, and indeed there is some evidence that it does not. The von Storch paper discusses this as the arbitrariness of a single time scale, which is silently imposed as an assumption when grabbing certain off-the-shelf statistical methods. For a more technical discussion on this topic, I would use the following peer reviewed paper as a starting point:GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L23402, doi:10.1029/2005GL024476, 2005, "Nature’s Style: Naturally Trendy", Dr Cohn and Dr Lins, link:http://water.usgs.gov/osw/pubs/Naturally_Trendy-Cohn-Lins_GRL_2005.pdfBut this paper is only a starting point, a first rung on the ladder of discussion which would take some time to get into and I sincerely doubt that we could do justice to it on this blog.

  8. Bishop Hill permalink

    Dave HI actually think our positions are not that far apart. I don’t think the prediction is falsified yet. You say I’m presenting the story since 2000 as a "gotcha", yet I have quite clearly said that the IPCC prediction is not falsified yet and that things could change. The trend since 2000 is rather unexpected for a planet warming at 2C/century.My problem with the pre-2000 data is that we can’t guarantee that it hasn’t been data snooped, even inadvertently. It’s a bit like demanding that a medical trial be double blind.

  9. Nullius in Verba permalink

    <i>"Tangential, but my understanding is that this standard dates back something like 100 years, and that 30 years is (as much as anything) an old rule of thumb in statistics about 30 datapoints being necessary."</i>That makes no sense. What size trend? What sort of data? Sounds like a superstition to me.But fortunately, this is science, and we can perform an experiment to test out your hypothesis (and Tamino’s).Let’s start by constructing an AR(1) series with a similar lag-1 autocorrelation to the weather (not because it’s how real weather data behaves, but because it’s easier than a more realistic model). Define the first term of the series T(0) = 0, and then T(n+1) = 0.9*T(n) + 0.1*r_n where r_n is a series of N(0,1) independent random variables. Generate about 150 points, and plot. Does there appear to be a trend? How much does the mean of the distribution change as n increases? How much data do you need to discern a trend of a given size, and how small a trend can you discern with 30, or 15 points?Quite big, isn’t it?

  10. Dave H permalink

    @SpenceIt seems you actually agree with my criticism of Bishop for making overreaching statements based on insufficient data. What I’m specifically addressing is claims from Bishop like:> The trend over the last ten years could be coincidence of course, and we could see some warming in the coming years that would bring the trend back on course. Based on no significant warming over the period 2000 – 2010But this is a very odd claim to make. The trend from 1995 – 2005 wasn’t statistically significant was it? Yet the trend from 1995 – 2010 was, at the 99% level. According to Bishop’s logic, this would be because of extra warming the last few years bringing the trend up. Does this mean that the trend for the first ten was actually flat (despite the lack of significance in the earlier test) and that only a five-year spike gave the illusion of a trend, or is it more likely that there was actually warming over the whole period, but it was masked by internal variability? Given that we accept the latter, this is *precisely* what scientists actually expect, and thus Bishop’s statements about the 2000-2010 trend in this thread are meaningless, disingenuous, and useful only for point-scoring in the public sphere.Given that confidence in a warming trend went from <95% from 1995 – early 2010 to 99% by the time 2010 had finished, does that *really* provide justification for the view that temperatures have actually plateaued since 2000? The point about 1980 – 2010 is not about model verification, it was to illustrate that using a small subset of available data to claim that there is no upward trend when a larger picture clearly shows one is disingenuous. Bishop’s claims really aren’t about model verification – the 2000 startpoint of the model forecasts just provides justification for a meaningless short trend.Bishop has claim that it is "true" that there has been no warming since 2000, but he cannot make this claim, and that he makes this claim at all has nothing to do with model verification.

  11. Dave H permalink

    Given that confidence in a warming trend went from less than 95 percent from 1995 – early 2010 to 99 percent by the time 2010 had finished, does that *really* provide justification for the view that temperatures have actually plateaued since 2000?

  12. Joseph O'geary permalink

    A few scientists exaggerate … a few underplay … I am only interested in the broad consensus after all the arguing.

  13. Joseph O'Geary permalink

    A few scientists exaggerate … a few underplay … I am only interested in the broad consensus after all the arguing.

  14. madashellGP permalink

    Hansen’s original paper on CAGW (Science, 1981) predicted CO2 would overwhelm all other factors for climate variability by the year 2000, with increasing influence from then onwards. That prediction’s not looking too clever either

  15. Anonymous permalink

    Dave HYou repeat 99% significance level/confidence (what you really mean is at the 1% significance level) for 1995 – 2010. Where is that analysis? I am aware of one analysis that looked at 1995 – 2009 using GLM, and like Jones said was just not statistically significant at 5% level. When 2010 data is added then it is just significant at the 5% level (p = 0.0338), see:http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/49219/no-statistical-warming-1995-wrongHowever as others have pointed out here, there are real problems with the kinds of assumptions we need to make for the statistical model and, as the von Storch chapter linked to suggests, there are real problems about significance testing such a set of data in the first place (data not randomly selected from a population).

  16. Anonymous permalink

    Can I add my tuppence in support of Spence. It was he – or someone with a very similar name! – who first pointed me to the work on ‘long term persistence’ going back to Kolgomorov and Hurst, on a Newsnight blog in May 2008. Those debates were prompted originally by a piece by Roger Harrabin on the inadequacies of climate models, particularly in modelling clouds, followed by a question and answer session with David Miliband on related matters. Ah, history!The paper by Cohn and Lins introduces this very important area, also called long range dependence and Hurst-Kolgomorov behaviour. If such statistical approaches apply to climate variables such as temperature then this, as Spence says, would call into question whether there’s anything unusual at all going on with the global temperature record since 1850. This is one of the very interesting questions in climate science that doesn’t get much traction from the elect of the IPCC. I just hope the politicos don’t cut the budget too much when the current alarm subsides, as it surely will, because such problems have genuine value and importance.

  17. Bishop Hill permalink

    Bishop’s claims really aren’t about model verification – the 2000 startpoint of the model forecasts just provides justification for a meaningless short trend.

  18. Bishop Hill permalink

    Oh to hell with Posterous!!The above is the quote from Dave HThe response is that you need to do the model verificaiton to show the warming is anthropogenic. Therefore I’ve been talking about model verification from beginning to end, whether Dave tells me I am or not.

  19. A. Peer permalink

    Singh – you are a buffoon

  20. Nullius in Verba permalink

    <i>"The trend from 1995 – 2005 wasn’t statistically significant was it?"</i>According to Dr Phil, from 1995 to the end of 2009.<i>"Yet the trend from 1995 – 2010 was, at the 99% level."</i>Against what null hypothesis?<i>"It seems you actually agree with my criticism of Bishop for making overreaching statements based on insufficient data."</i>I don’t think he made an overreaching statement. I think he made a statement that was interpreted as implying something more than it did.<i>"According to Bishop’s logic, this would be because of extra warming the last few years bringing the trend up."</i>No. It’s because the significance of the 15-year interval was on the borderline (as previously noted), so the warm start to 2010 due to the El Nino possibly tipped it into significance (I haven’t checked). Most of the warming occurred at the start of the interval rather than the end, before 1998.<i>"is it more likely that there was actually warming over the whole period, but it was masked by internal variability?"</i>Internal variability cuts both ways. It is actually more likely that warming over the whole period would be intermediate between the two extremes (i.e. positive but far smaller than the models predict), and internal variability exaggerated the 1975-2000 rise, while cancelling the 2000-2010 rise. Or it could be that the weather isn’t AR(1)+trend after all, and in fact it is *all* internal variability – both rise and levelling off – and there is no trend.Without an external reason for picking a particular statistical model, you can’t conclude anything by looking at the data. If one were to hypothesise that 30-year and 60-year climate oscillations were affecting the temperature, like the AMO and PDO, you might try to fit sums of sinusoids to the data instead of straight lines, for example. Without providing such a context, it’s a meaningless question and a meaningless debate.All that can really be said is that the models predicted a particular warming trend post 2000, and that the data since then has so far counted against them somewhat but without it reaching the level of statistical significance yet. It’s not looking good for them, but they haven’t been falsified. It must also be true that the magnitude of internal variability must be at least comparable to the trend, for the two to cancel like that. But for non-statisticians making casual statements in everyday language, it’s not really worth getting wound up about such subtleties.

  21. Bishop Hill permalink

    A PeerPlease don’t. This has been a very good natured thread.

  22. Dave H permalink

    @BishopFair enough, I’ll agree you started out focusing on model verification as a falsifier of the A in AGW.Where I take issue is that:a) Falsifying models falsifies the "A". It does not. It means that our understanding of the climate system is limited, or our ability to translate that limited understanding into a model with predictive power over the timescales under scrutiny is lacking. Well, we already know both of those are true, the question is the direction that we are travelling in the journey of understanding, and how close are we getting with our approximations. The "A" doesn’t go away if the forecasts are wrong. Indeed, if the forecasts turn out to be 100% wrong, the only part that would seem to go away would be the "W". b) Looking at ten years of data that are not expected to show a significant trend and saying "there’s no trend yet, its not looking good for the models!" is pretty weak stuff. How many ten year periods of no statistically significant warming have there been in the last few decades of overall accelerated warming?c) To me, it looks like claiming model verification since 2000 is an excuse for starting yet another round of "focus on the meaningless short trend". The Jones "no warming since 1995" canard still hasn’t died, even though its not true any more – how much mileage can be got out of resetting the trends to 2000?I will however agree with you on consigning posterous to hades.

  23. davidc permalink

    Jan 29, 2011 bayesian said… Simon, in your points you twice give probabilities:In 3) "the climate consensus might be wrong, but the probability that the consensus is correct is +90%"In 7) "but they also agree that the broad consensus is very likely (90%) to be correct"These have often been used by commentators such as yourself, but I am keen to know how such posterior probabilities have been calculated.Bayesian,You can see how this was done by looking in the last IPCC report (I think it was in the guide to policymakers, but could be wrong). They define 90% probability as being something like "highly likely". And they state that the estimate is arrived at based on expert opinion. That is, they just made it up. No calculation at al.(And if you really are a Bayesian you will notice they confuse probability and likelihood)

  24. Bishop Hill permalink

    Dave HGood, I think we do agree pretty much. I have already recognised that the trend since 2000 could be meaningless. I was wondering whether to ask Lucia to put a number on the confidence that 2C/century is falsified at the moment. Obviously not 95%, but better than evens.

  25. Sheumais permalink

    Having read various tweets cheering Mr Singh on in his court defence for "freedom of speech" it’s a great pity he chose to use that freedom to post a comment so ineffably stupid it should embarrass his supporters. Ad hominem attacks have characterised the suspiciously aggressive defence of AGW theory for years and for him (an other here) to pompously indulge themselves in it here too, merely confirms the weakness of their position. Your whining defence above does you no credit Mr Singh.

  26. Punksta permalink

    <b>Free speech</b> includes the right be, inter alia, be a disgusting hypocrite. It’s not just for people one likes or agrees with.

  27. Willard Foxton permalink

    Following all the furore, I watched the Horizon on I-player last night.After it, as a Law grad turned journalist, I can still honestly say that I do not understand climate science. Because I don’t really understand it, my personal position I usually say it would be intellectually dishonest of me to take a firm stand.Thus, the killer point that undermined Delingpole for me was when he admitted he had never read the primary sources he was criticising. It’s one thing for me not to understand climate change science; quite another for a man to base his entire career on a combination of received opinion & hearsay. Delingpole’s claim was that he "doesn’t have the time to read the science" and is an "interpreter of interpretations".This is a pretty poor showing for a journalist. Anyone who’s interpretations are "warmist" are, in Delingpole’s eyes automatically wrong; anyone who supports his contention that global warming is not caused by humans is automatically right. What he is writing is polemic Op-ed, rather than fact based

  28. Punksta permalink

    To some degree or other, <i>everyone</i> is an intepreter of interpreters. And ideas are transmitted ‘orally’ as well as formally.

  29. willard foxton permalink

    Well, that wasn’t Delingpole’s point.His point was that he (and others) had uncovered this giant factual scandal based on the wholesale manufacture of consensus, whereas in fact, what he had done was be party to the exposure of some dubious emails from UEA.If he has never actually read the primary sources on global warming (which, by his own admission, he hasn’t), but instead has read interpretations of them by supporters of his viewpoint, then by definition, what he is saying is opinion, not fact.There’s a crucial difference there.

  30. Bishop Hill permalink

    WillardIf you look up the thread you will see one of Phil Jones colleagues from UEA saying, in effect, that Delingpole has a point about at least one prominent aspect of Climategate.I take your point about JD writing opinion pieces. He’s a columnist – that’s what they do. Doesn’t make him wrong though.

  31. Punksta permalink

    Well certainly Delingpole wasn’t instrumental in uncovering the sustained attempt by IPCC leading lights to manufacture consensus. That honour goes to <i>Deep Stoat</i>, whoever he or she may be.

  32. willard foxton permalink

    I really shouldn’t get sucked into this, but:Does it not worry you that James Delingpole has, by his own admission *never* read the primary sources he refutes? What does that say about his credibility? For me, that is fundamentally what Mr.Singh’s post is about.

  33. Bishop Hill permalink

    WillardI wrote a <a href="http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/1/31/interpreters-of-interpreters.html">short article</a> at my blog explaining my views on this.

  34. Barry Woods permalink

    On the flip side… Do George Monbiot, Roger Harrabin, Geoffey Lean, Damina Carrington, Duncan Clark, etc,etc read all the peer reviewed article themselves, are they qualified to do so?They are no diiferent from James Delingpole inthis respect..Again, a UEA colleague of Jones, ina very relevant field, on this very thread has robustly criticised what Phil Jones did with the trick and hide the decline… and summarised the issue which the BBC failed to inform the public about..Can not a journalist report this fact or comment on it..Look at Paul Dennis comments..

  35. Nullius in Verba permalink

    <i>"After it, as a Law grad turned journalist, I can still honestly say that I do not understand climate science. Because I don’t really understand it, my personal position I usually say it would be intellectually dishonest of me to take a firm stand."</i>That’s an excellent and highly principled position, which I applaud!<i>"Thus, the killer point that undermined Delingpole for me was when he admitted he had never read the primary sources he was criticising."</i>That depends on exactly what position you are arguing. You have just said that it would be intellectually dishonest to take a firm stand <i>in favour</i> of the AGW-catastrophe hypothesis if you hadn’t read and understood the primary literature, but many people do. Everyone from schoolchildren to politicians are expected to, even though all acknowledge that they are not qualified to judge for themselves.Should we give everyone a pass to assert any old unsupported nonsense if they argue on one side of the debate, but demand strict professional-level scientific rigour if they argue for the other? How is that fair?My position is that anybody can hold and express an opinion based in trust in their preferred experts – what is known as Argument from Authority – or any other heuristic they like (correlation implies causation, argument from ignorance, etc.), so long as it is acknowledged that it is not a belief supported by science, and that people who choose <i>different</i> authorities to believe are not thereby any more defective or irrational for doing so.Essentially, I distinguish ordinary opinions from scientific opinions – only the latter require a detailed personal knowledge of the evidence.I don’t mind people believing in the seas rising 7 metres by 2050 because Al Gore said so, so long as they understand that their belief is based on an unreliable heuristic, and that Science itself utterly rejects all such Argument from Authority. Heuristics are all that non-scientists have, but we must allow them to hold opinions – and Delingpole is at least honest enough to acknowledge his limits. It might make for a more polite and constructive debate if more people showed the same humility.

  36. mike permalink

    Mr Singh- youve made yourself look very very stupid……..

  37. R Saumarez permalink

    I’m very disappointed that _gmh_ hasn’t risen to my challenge. He asked me to show him the problem and I suggested a fairly simple calculation. I’m still waiting for him to respond …..

  38. Jim Divine permalink

    Consensus is to science as fashion is to clothing – a product of social forces. Warming Science is a curious conflation of data-modelling, computer-power, science-politics, career-building, and ego-flexing. I hope that one day science journalists such as Dr Singh will dig into consensus making. But first they will have to jump off the consensus band wagon, which is evidently a fairly comfortable place right now.

  39. Jean Rochefort permalink

    Ivar Giaever has a Nobel too. And he is a vocal AGW skeptics. Do Singh’s argument from authority is moot.

  40. Not Lord Lawson permalink

    Q25 Chairman: Lord Lawson, on 16 November 1999 there is the famous "trick" referred to in the email. Do you not feel that was simply a colloquialism of people exchanging emails rather than anything more sinister, or do you genuinely believe there was something more sinister in that? Lord Lawson of Blaby: This bears on what I was saying a moment ago. The sinister thing is not the word "trick". In their own evidence they say that what they mean by "trick" is the best way of doing something. Q26 Chairman: You accept that? Lord Lawson of Blaby: I accept that.

  41. Bishop Hill permalink

    Not Lord Lawson:What a remarkable piece of quote mining you have just performed there! Lawson’s very next words were:"What they are saying is: what is the best way of hiding the decline, or what is the best way of hiding the divergence? It does not make it any better; it does not make it any better at all. The thing which is reprehensible is the fact that when the proxy series, which is a very curious proxy series incidentally, based on tree rings, departed from the measured temperature series, anormal person will say maybe that means the proxy series is not all that reliable."

  42. Not Lord Lawson permalink

    And his final words on the matter to the science and technology commitee mps? Q29 Dr Harris: You do not have an issue with the word "trick". Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, that is colloquial.

  43. Anonymous permalink

    Not Lord Lawson:I doubt if he had a problem with "to" or "the" either. It’s the meaning of the whole phrase which matters and, as individual words go, surely "hide" is more important anyway.If someone is preparing a presentation of scientific data on which trillions of dollars and the way that billions of people live their lives depend, in what way is it acceptable to "hide" anything?

  44. Test permalink

    This is a test

  45. Curious from Cleethropes permalink

    Simon,I am a little late to this discussion and guess you will never get to read these comments – which is a shame – but just in case . . .Read your book on Fermat’s Last Theorem and the Code Book and enjoyed them both immensely. Also I have a great deal of respect in the personal stand you made against Chriopractors – can’t even begin to imagine the stress that would have placed you under? I am definitely a fan!Unfortunately I am one of the people whom I believe you would call a denier! I would love the opportunity to discuss this with you (or anybody else) over a pint in a decent pub as I do find this whole subject quite illiuminating. Alas, I guess that is destined never to happen since "the science is settled" and "97% of scientist agree" etc.However, if I could leave you with one thought it we be a comment on your initial response to Bishop? The fundamental issue at the heart of this debate is clearly whether humans are acting in such a manner that will result in Catastrophic Anthrophic Global Warming CAGW. In your response to Bish you linked to a skeptical science website basically giving 10 reasons why AGW is occurred?Do you see the problem with this response? To enlighten you can I offer an analogy? I say I do not believe in Green Aliens from Mars and to counter this you direct me to a website that give 10 reasons why Mars is there! Whether GW is occuring or even if this is AGW matters not. The only thing that matters from a practical standpoint is whether CAGW is occuring! e.g. mild warming and increased levels of CO2 would in all probably be benefical to the planet – CO2 is not a polluent it is plant food. Warmer weather and increased CO2 will lead to increased food production which throughout human history has been benefical for mankind.I note with interest that I cannot find the post on Skeptical Science giving me 10 reasons why CAGW is happenng! I wonder why that is since "the science is settled" etc.I actually am fairly ambivilant to what politicians choose to do in this matter – unfortunately I am particularly cynical of them all. My one and only gripe is the fact that people are claiming that science has proved (to very high degrees of confidence) that CAGW is occurinig when in fact it has done nothing of the sort! I find this "bastardization" of science particular selfish and potential disactrous – one day we my really need science to help us out and if the public have been so confused we could end up with a "crying wolf scenario".I could discuss this for hours but figure I have spouted on for long enough – offer to discuss over a pint is a geniune one – I live in Hertfordshire.Just for the record:– GW : I believe that the surface air temperature of the planet has cleared risen over the last 150 year (it is pretty obvious)!- AGW : I understand the properties of CO2 and hence the fact the AGW is occuring. i.e. all things being equal when we double (not if as we surely will) CO2 level late in the 21st century they the planet will be around 1.2C warmer.Cheers

  46. Anonymous permalink

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