William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Bad Astronomer Does Bad Statistics: That Wall Street Journal Editorial

Remember when I said how you shouldn’t draw straight lines in time series and then speak of the line as if the line was the data itself? About how the starting point made a big difference in the slope of the line, and how not accounting for uncertainty in the starting date translates into over-certainty in the results?

If you can’t recall, refresh your memory: How To Cheat, Or Fool Yourself, With Time Series: Climate Example.

Well, not everybody read those warnings. As an example of somebody who didn’t do his homework, I give you Phil Plait, a fellow who prides himself on exposing bad astronomy and blogs at Discover magazine. Well, Phil, old boy, I am the Statistician to the Stars—get it? get it?1—and I’m here to set you right.

The Wall Street Journal on 27 January 2012 published a letter from sixteen scientists entitled, No Need to Panic About Global Warming, the punchline of which was:

Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of “incontrovertible” evidence.

Plait in response to these seemingly ho-hum words took the approach apoplectic, and fretted that “denialists” were reaching lower. Reaching where he never said. He never did say what a “denialist” was, either; but we can guess it is defined as “Whoever disagrees with Phil Plait.”

The WSJ‘s crew said, “Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.” This allowed Plait to break out the italics and respond, “What the what?” I would’ve guessed that the scientists’ statement was fairly clear and even true. But Plait said, “That statement, to put it bluntly, is dead wrong.” Was it?

Plait then slipped in a picture, one which he thought was a devastating touché. He was so exercised by his effort that he broke out into triumphal clichés like “crushed to dust” and “scraping the bottom of the barrel.” You know what they say about astronomers. Anyway, here’s the picture:

Global warming

See that red line? It’s drawn on a time series—wait! No it isn’t. Those dots are not what Plait thinks they are. They are not—they most certainly are not—global temperatures. Each dot instead is an estimate of global temperature: worse, most dots are also different kinds of estimates from each other. That is, the first dot was estimated using data X and method A, and the second dot was estimated using data Y and method B, and so forth. Well, maybe the first and second dot were the same, but older dots are different than the newer ones.

With me so far? All you have to remember is these dots are estimates, results from statistical models. The dots are not raw data. That means the dots are uncertain. At the least, Plait should have shown us some “error bars” around those dots; some kind of measure of uncertainty.

Now—here’s the real tricky part—we do not want the error bars from the estimates, but from the predictions. Remember, the models that gave these dots tried to predict what the global temperature was. When we do see error bars, researchers often make the mistake of showing us the uncertainty of the model parameters, about which we do not care, we cannot see, and are not verifiable. Since the models were supposed to predict temperature, show us the error of the predictions.

I’ve done this (on different but similar data) and I find that the parameter uncertainty is plus or minus a tenth of degree or less. But the prediction uncertainty is (in data like this) anywhere from 0.1 to 0.5 degrees, plus or minus. That is, prediction uncertainty is about five times larger.

I don’t know what the prediction uncertainty is for Plait’s picture. Neither does he. I’d be willing to bet it’s large enough so that we can’t tell with certainty greater than 90% whether temperatures in the 1940s were cooler than in the 2000s. And also such that, just as the WSJ‘s scientists claim, we can’t say with any certainty that the temperatures have been increasing this past decade.

In other words, the scientists were right and Plait was wrong. Or, as he might phrase it, he blatantly misinterpreted long term trends. Notice old Phil (his source, actually) starts, quite arbitrarily, with 1973, a point which is lower than the years preceding this date. If he would have read the post linked above, he would have known this is a common way that cheaters cheat. Not saying you cheated, Phil, old thing. But you didn’t do yourself any favors.

Somewhat amusingly, Plait ends his semi-random venting by telling us that Michael Mann has been “tweeting furiously” about this. Good grief! This isn’t helping his case. Mann’s understanding of statistics may be likened to an overly enthusiastic undergraduate who left the lecture early.

———————————————————————————

1I’m here all week.

P.S. Hey, Phil. Since you brought it up: the total consideration I’ve received for my work in global warming from Big Oil (or anybody) is number so small that dividing by it is forbidden. How much do you get for your blog or other environmental work, including government funds?

P.P.S. I didn’t forget about that “warmest years on record” stuff. Those “warmest years” are still estimates and have to be compared to the old data, which itself must be accompanied by uncertainty measures. And anyway, it has been much hotter in the past than it is now. Jurassic anybody?

Update Thanks for all the comments, everybody! 100+ and no signs of slowing. I will read them in all, in time, but for now, since many of them repeat odd claims and misunderstanding of statistical methods, let me point you to the BEST project posts (here and here). BEST had parameter-based error bars, but not predictive ones. But some acknowledgment of uncertainty is better than none! Also look under the Start Here tab and pay attention to the smoothing time series posts, the homogenization of temperature series posts, and read this weeks’ All of Statistics series. You may also read, inter alia, the Probability Leakage post which describes the Bayesian predictive approach I am using. A lot of confusion and frank unfamiliarity for some of you.

Update to the Update See this brand-spanking new post that clarifies some of the statistics some of you couldn’t be troubled to look up.

Update See this cartoon which shows that the IPCC has been known to employ the technique of variable start dates.

Update It is imperative that all read this series, where I describe just how so many people make mistakes. Those below who have been shouting the loudest are most in need.

138 Comments

  1. OOH you wascally wabbit, there you have gone and done it. Pieces like these will attract rants bested only by your posts on free will
    Thanks Doc.

  2. This post should heat things up…

  3. You mistyped “still estimates” instead of “silly estimates” at the end

  4. Matt,
    [1]The bad astronomer is displaying this graph of land temperature anomaly reconstruction as a source of something to said about global warming.

    [2] It is obvious that the post is written in haste. BA has fallen out the climate groove and then jumps right in to write this post. He should be excused

    [3] BA makes a prediction that ‘deniers’ would flood his comment section. Reality diverged. The comments section is filled with consensus supporters.

  5. Shub,

    About [3] His blog’s comments are moderated and every comment needs explicit approval, so I don’t think it’s significant that the comments are supportive. I’ve posted to request that he addresses the criticism in this blog post. Somehow I don’t think my comment will be approved.

    Best Regards

  6. While we are at it, here is an screenshot of my comment on Bad Astronomy. I think it will be interesting to see if it’s approved.

    http://i.imgur.com/s8rd9.png

    Best regards.

  7. Briggs

    1 February 2012 at 11:50 am

    Richard Lafoie,

    Good point. I’ve also emailed Plait and offered him space for a rebuttal (as is my usual practice).

  8. One does not need error bars to show that there has been no warming no significant warming in the past decade. This article shows two graphs from the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) series. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2055191/Scientists-said-climate-change-sceptics-proved-wrong-accused-hiding-truth-colleague.html The first graph, just as the graph to which BA links, shows the long-term trend, which is rising, but obscures the flat temperatures for the past ten years. The second graph show the trend for the last ten years only, which is flat.

    What about the other global temperature time series? This link shows the global temperature trends for various periods using various indexes– http://www.climate4you.com/GlobalTemperatures.htm (when you get to the page, click on hyperlink for global temperature trends). From these charts, one can see the following ten year trends for the period ending December of 2011: UAH- barely positive; RSS-barely negative; GISS—no trend; NCDC—barely negative; Hardcrut 3—barely negative. Accordingly, the factual assertion that there has been a “lack of warming” for more than a decade is correct.

    What of the claim that the decade starting in 2000 is the warmest on record. This could also be true, leaving aside error bars. Temperatures rose throughout the 1980’s and 1990′s and then the trend went flat for the decade ending in December of 2011. Imagine walking up the stairs of a building (the positive trend for the 1980’s and1990′s) and then getting off and walking around on the top floor (the flat trend for the 2000′s). Even though you are no longer going up, you are walking around on a floor that is higher than the stairs you were climbing.

  9. Phil does not usually censor his comment section, Richard.

  10. Posted an excerpt on WUWT.

    Still waiting for some feedback from you on that other project.

  11. Bad Astronomer uses “global LAND temperature”, so his purported refutation of “global temperature” is at best invalid, at worse a rhetorical strawman.

  12. “What of the claim that the decade starting in 2000 is the warmest on record. ”

    Such claim can be put in the category “CAGW talking point” but it is moot. Even if the next 50 years’ temperature doesn’t change which is a clear refutation of the AGW theory, they can still claim “warmest on record” and “the trend is a warming” by drawing a linear regression starting at 1850.

  13. As you discussed in your earlier posting and above the secret to Phil’s point is picking the starting point. He uses a 40 year trend line to address the authors contention that there has been a lack of global warming for the last 10 years. As I pointed out over there, here are the Met’s temperatures for the last 10 years:
    2001 – 14.41,
    2002 – 14.47,
    2003 – 14.47,
    2004 – 14.45,
    2005 – 14.51,
    2006 – 14.45,
    2007 – 14.43,
    2008- Not on table,
    2009 – 14.47,
    2010 – 14.47 and
    2011 – 14.44.
    As for 2012 the Met predicts 14.48.

    You don’t even need to run the stats to demonstrate a lack of significant warming in this set. Did the WSJ authors misrepresent the data? No they stated at the outset that they were looking at the last 10 years. Maybe Phil is right over the longer term and maybe he is wrong, but over the 10 year period covered by the authors of the WSJ piece are clearly correct in their assertion.

  14. William,

    How is it that you can dismiss the most recent 40 years data discussed as “estimates” but you seem to know precisely what temperatures were in the Jurassic some 200-145million years ago “has been much hotter in the past”?

    Since you’re demanding precision, can we please see any Jurassic temperature data that has greater than 90% certainty.

  15. I thought post-modern science meant that you didn’t have to worry about statistical rigour if your argument was for a good cause? Consensus trumps reality every time, what?

  16. Briggs

    1 February 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Peter H,

    Forget the Jurassic and think instead about 4 billion years ago. Hotter then?

    What did you think of the main points of the article, and not the joke about the Jurassic?

  17. Did you know that in the GHCN data base we have world-wide at the end of 1969 on duty 9644 stations? In the epoch 1970-99 a number of 9434 dropped out. Included were 2918 new stations. Therefore, at the end of 1999 we had 3128 stations on duty in this base. Do you think that inclusion and drop-out were random? Just compute for each station its correlation over time with its regional time series. You will find that the drop-outs had the lowest correlations. Therefore, those points in the long term series come from all kinds of seriously biased sets.

  18. ” Notice old Phil (his source, actually) starts, quite arbitrarily, with 1973, a point which is lower than the years preceding this date.”

    Uhhhhh. Quite arbitrarily??

    Wasn’t 1973 about the nadir of ‘global temperature’ that was inciting the climate experts to insist that ‘The government MUST do something RIGHT NOW to stave off the onslaught of the imminent and all but inevitable ice age.’? And weren’t those climate experts from the same organizations and in many cases the same individuals who have now been incited (by the data only of course) to insist that ‘The government (optimally a world wide government with infinite power and a Marxist frame of mind) MUST do something RIGHT NOW to stave off the onslaught of the imminent and all but inevitable melting of the polar and Greenland ice caps.’ sometime in the next few hundred years, flooding all the unfortunates who stand near the ocean in anticipation and who live long enough to enjoy it, as they go under with a hugely satisfactory ‘I told you so!’?

  19. For Blair at 1:35 PM:

    You are right of course about the lack of trend, but am I the only one who is skeptical that we have had in place during the 20th and 21st centuries, never mind hundreds or thousands of years ago, an instrumentation system capable of measuring the Temperature of the Earth, however defined (if it ever has been) with a precision OR resolution of +/- .01 degrees C?

    The Met is clearly confident, as their TOE’s for the last ten years vary only in the hundredths of a degree Centigrade range.

    Frankly I would be astonished if the climate experts could instrument my house, collect data for a year, and announce the ‘annual temperature of Bob’s House’ with an accuracy and resolution of +/- .01 degree Centigrade with any degree of conviction.

  20. I’ve been reading Phil’s blog for years and it communicates about astronomy pretty well with a good mix of technical and just plain interesting information. However, even though he fancies himself a skeptic, Phil refuses to question the climate science data. Everybody has blinders, but if you claim to see you’d better be right or ever eager to challenge your own positions. Sadly, Phil would rather get into the political arena by labeling people who disagree on this issue as “deniers.” The degree of disagreement doesn’t matter, only that they aren’t totally bought into AGW claims.

    Btw, his blog commentary is not moderated for content that disagrees with the post, although the fanboys and girls can be set to howling pretty easily. Expect the temperature around here to go up if Phil engages in debate.

  21. Briggs

    1 February 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Josh,

    Thanks! I posted this comment on his site (could you check later and see if it makes it through?):

    Oh dear and oh my. You, too, have forgotten the error bars. If it’s any consolation, it’s a common mistake. You add to it by making the second frequent error: confusing the fitted line for the data itself.

    You’ll note (if you do your homework) that I’ve extensively critiqued the Berkeley results.

    Everything is not an estimate, as you claim: a silly thing to say.

    And I don’t own any wool, so I can’t pull it over anybody’s eyes.

  22. To add to Blair’s contribution here are the anamolies from the NCDC global temperature time-series from the National Climate Data Center, U.S. Department of Commerce
    2001 0.54
    2002 0.6
    2003 0.61
    2004 0.56
    2005 0.64
    2006 0.59
    2007 0.58
    2008 0.5
    2009 0.58
    2010 0.64
    2011 0.51
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/

    There is no discernable warming trend is this data from the past 10 years.

  23. I am unclear on the distinction being made here between an estimate and a prediction. I understand that what matters for the takeaway is not the error bars on the parameters of the statistical model but the error bars on the output of the model, but isn’t the output of the model called an estimate?

    Is Mr. Briggs calling the station data the parameters and calling the global temperature they are used to estimate a prediction?

    In any case, there is a more obvious criticism of Plait: that to rebut a claim about “the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now,” he draws a trend line through temperatures from 1973! The only thing he has to say about the period in question is that “nine of the ten hottest years on record all occurred since the year 2000.” (True enough if he is referring to the instrumental record, and we ignore “the 1940’s problem”). But the claim he is calling “dead wrong” is a claim about the TREND over this period, and Plait never even looks at it. Apparently the guy doesn’t have the IQ to distinguish level and trend, even when this is the exact subject in question.

    Unfortunately, the one thing Mr. Briggs says about this part of the issue is not quite accurate. “Just as the WSJ’s scientists claim,” he writes, “we can’t say with any certainty that the temperatures have been increasing this past decade.” But that isn’t what they said. They simply referred without qualification to “the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.”

    That CAN be interpreted to mean that there is a lack of certainty that it has warmed, but if one is going to interpret the statement at all, the more natural interpretation is a claim that there has been a lack of significant warming over this period (not “statistically significant,” just significant). Interpreting the statement in terms of uncertainty actually cuts against it in absolute terms. As Briggs so ably points out, for all we know actual temperatures could have warmed significantly in the last decade, once the uncertainty of our measurements is taken into account.

    We expect the alarmists to be sloppy. Briggs, not so much.

  24. As soon as I saw “Skeptical Science” on the chart I knew it was bogus. If BA wants credibility he needs to use a credible source, not one funded by George Soros and run by a cartoonist.

  25. Tom Nelson has provided another example of IPCC scientists applying the Bad Astronomy approach to past temperature trend analysis.

    http://di2.nu/foia/foia2011/mail/4578.txt

  26. tadchem, Richmond, VA

    1 February 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Based on years of working with linear regressions, I would crudely estimate the uncertainty of the inputs (GLT Anomaly estimates) to be on the order of 0.5 degree – the mean width of the ‘envelope’ confining 2/3 of the inputs around the regression line. This corresponds roughly to the square root of the variance.
    The standard Least-Square Linear Regression also permits estimates of the uncertainty of the regression parameters, notably the slope of the regression line. This is an important detail almost universally ignored.
    Unfortunately ASCII does not permit reporting the equations used for making these estimates (slope, intercept, variance, etc.) but they are covered in my old Statistics text – “Applied Statistics for Engineers”, Wm. Volk, 1958 – in Chapter 8.
    For the graph provided my ‘wild guess’ is that the regression line has a slope of 0.025 deg/yr and a +/- of 0.025 deg/yr.
    In other words, a *flat* line at an average ‘anomaly’ of 0.5 deg, with a zero slope, would still fall within the uncertainty range of the inputs throughout the entire domain.
    If I could get my hands on a table of the data pairs used to generate this chart, I could easily improve the reliability of my guesswork using the Least-Square Regression statistics available through an Excel Spreadsheet.

  27. For Peter H.:

    http://earth.usc.edu/~stott/Catalina/Mesozoic.html

    is a nice introduction to the Mesozoic (that spans the Jurasic). See the nice chart near the bottom on evaporative deposits. Note that warm blooded mammals start to evolve (keeping warm being less needed prior to then). Note the lack of any indications of ice caps or glaciation. Note reefs found at greater range N and S (so waters warmer). Note ferns found at high latitudes. etc. etc. etc.

    I’ll take biological “facts in the ground” over fudged, adjusted, homogenized, statistically abused, and hypothetical “global average temperatures” any day. Plants don’t lie and don’t have ‘statistical error’ in where they can survive. They live or they die.

    Now, can you get back to the author’s point and let go of the trollish distraction? Or do you really want to argue that the world of ferns, giant reptilians, tropical forests, and no ice was colder? …

    @William Brigs:

    Thanks for the article. Nicely done. I would likely have added a comparison graph that started in, oh, 1930, with segments going downhill into the ’70s then uphill out and flat over the whole range, but I tend to overkill ;-)

    FWIW, one ‘beef’ I have with the whole “Global Average Temperature” thing is that temperatures are INTRINSIC variables. What is the average temperature of a pot of water made by dumping in one jug of water at 0 C and one bucket at 20 C?

    We simply can not know.

    What were the sizes of the two starting lumps of water? Was that 0 C melted or frozen? What were the salinities? It is simply ASSUMED that mass and phase changes average out.

    Given multiple hundreds to thousands of years residency time for water to flow through the bottom currents of the ocean, the mass involved in surface temperatures is a constantly changing set. The amount of frozen water changes; by year, by decade, by century, by geography. The amount of water VAPOR too. Recently the sun quieted and the height of the atmosphere shrank. Winds changed (and with it compressive forces).

    That is why it is simply forbidden to average intrinsic properties vs extrinsic ones.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intrinsic-extrinsic/

    has an interesting discussion of the ‘problem’, if a bit deep…

    So I would ask: How do you put an error bar on a forbidden operation?

    What is the error bar on 12 / 0 = 12 infinities?

  28. “I’ve done this (on different but similar data) and I find that the parameter uncertainty is plus or minus a tenth of degree or less. But the prediction uncertainty is (in data like this) anywhere from 0.1 to 0.5 degrees, plus or minus. That is, prediction uncertainty is about five times larger.”

    Not five times LARGER, but five times AS large: i.e. four times LARGER. The number 5 is not five times LARGER than the number 1. It’s four times larger (1 the original number + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5), or five times AS large.

  29. None of this matters anyway. We all know the world is going to end in December 2012. The Mayans proved it!

    /sarc

  30. “tadchem, Richmond, VA says:
    1 February 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Based on years of working with linear regressions”

    tadchem – my thoughts too – maybe GATA is going up (a little) or down (a little) or staying the same (sort of…) and now suppose GATA is doing any of that because of the tiny margin of man-made CO2? Really? I’m just not sold.

    The so-called data just looks like some noisy static to me – but hey; it’s the fashion these days doncha know mankind destroying the planet and all.

    It is fascinating watching grown up adults with actual technical / science credentials gaze at GATA noise and draw conclusions therefrom. Count me in. This is big fun.

  31. Jean Demesure says:
    1 February 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Bad Astronomer uses “global LAND temperature”, so his purported refutation of “global temperature” is at best invalid, at worse a rhetorical strawman.

    Not forgetting that usually Northern Hemisphere data is taken to be Global. The Southern Hemisphere tells a different story. Example here:

    http://notrickszone.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Caryl2.72.gif

    But then I may just be being parochial ;-)

  32. Briggs,
    Do you disagree with the demonstrated physics showing CO2 trapping heat and that measurements have confirmed that the rise is CO2 is entirely due to the burning of fossil fuels? If you do, on what basis and data do you do so?

  33. Of course, your interpretation of what the scientists (scientists, really? By what definition is Burt Rutan a scientist? … but I digress) claimed when you contend they were correct and what the WSJ quoted them as saying are different. And they are different in a way that, I think, you would agree is significant.

    WSJ: “Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.”

    Briggs paraphrasing them: “just as the WSJ‘s scientists claim, we can’t say with any certainty that the temperatures have been increasing this past decade.”

    I think that the reason you paraphrased them in this way is that you agree with their point of view and, had you quoted them as they stated it rather than as you paraphrased, you’d need to acknowledge that they engaged in the same sort of analysis for which you’re criticizing Plait.

  34. 10 years is too short a period to assert with reasonable confidence what the global temperature trend is, so first off, the 16 scientist are wrong to make such a claim, Plait, in his eagerness to argue that temperatures are still rising went on to wrongly argue that extrapolation of the historic trend was enough to argue that this proved the trend was continuing.

    Briggs was wrong to claim that because of Plait’s error, the 16 must be right, which is BS logic.

  35. C. Bruce Richardson Jr.

    1 February 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Even assuming that temperatures stayed exactly the same for the next 50 years, a linear regression starting in 1973 would still show a warming trend.

    If it didn’t warm for 50 years would it still be warming? Apparently Mr. Plait thinks so.

    I have some charts to illustrate this that can be downloaded as a pdf file here:

    http://www.mediafire.com/?zu53lj75477oa4g

  36. The actual Skeptical Science (sic) graph as originally presented with it’s animation shows the exact opposite of what Plait used it to prove, to wit that the trend over the past decade has been level (slightly negative actually in their graph). It’s impossible to stick to facts and argue that the temperature has risen significantly over the past decade, anyone who has been following the science knows this, all one can argue is what significance to attach to the temperature plateau. Plait could have used it as Skeptical Science (sic) did to show that it is an artifact of start point chosen and that the trend since 1973 has been upward despite periods of cooling (which raises the question of why choose 1973 as a start point when 1973 was the bottom of a 30 year decline in temperature), and argued that short term cooling or stable trends are not significant to the general long term trend. Plait’s piece galls me since apparently Plait no only failed to read Brigg’s on the issue, but he missed that the Skeptical Science (sic) article he took the graph was about the same point and showed the 21st century temperature plateau.

  37. Speaking of the Jurassic, it might be interesting to note that the consensus among scientists who study such things is that the Wisconsin Glaciation was the coldest glacial period of the Pleistocene (commonly referred to as the Ice Ages).

    The consensus today is that the Pleistocene (the last 1.8 million years) is the coldest epoch since the Karoo Ice Age of 250 million years ago.

    In other words, the Older Dryas of a mere 20,000 years ago was the coldest point that Mother Earth has experienced in the last quarter of a billion years.

    I submit to you all that the climate of the Pleistocene is NOT the normative condition, nor is it the desirable future condition.

    WARMER IS BETTER — FIGHT THE ICE

  38. Rob Ryan said @ 1 February 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Of course, your interpretation of what the scientists (scientists, really? By what definition is Burt Rutan a scientist?

    A scientist is one who generates knowledge (what is necessarily the case) about the world. Do you have evidence that Briggs’ scientists are not generating knowledge?

  39. Luis, maybe he doesn’t usually censor his comments section but he deleted a post of mine for quoting the first sentence of a blog he linked to. Claimed it contained material inappropriate to his audience yet he pointed to it; invited his audience to view it; and made it clear he agreed with it. Richard’s comment did go through. Briggs’ comment hasn’t (perhaps there hasn’t been enough time).

    If Phil were to take a step back he would note with irony that he has been exhibiting the very attitude and posturing of those supernaturalists he derides. His defense is that the finding of CAGW a the result of Science and Science as Gospel is never wrong.

  40. @Jean Demesure

    “What of the claim that the decade starting in 2000 is the warmest on record. ”

    Such claim can be put in the category “CAGW talking point” but it is moot. Even if the next 50 years’ temperature doesn’t change which is a clear refutation of the AGW theory, they can still claim “warmest on record” and “the trend is a warming” by drawing a linear regression starting at 1850.

    Indeed, that CAGWist talking point is well-locked in for the foreseeable future. Even if the CAGW hypothesis is completely killed off and buried, that talking point will live on until the trend from 1850 start sloping downwards. By then of course we may well be on the verge of another Little Ice Age.

  41. Psychology can settle this dispute.

    The Daily Mail published some obvious lies. The header they published read “Met Office: ‘claim'”. Met office responded, said they never made such a claim, and the Daily Mail simply didn’t understand it, or misrepresented.

    Now you can actually find out, who is on which team. The people who genuinly think they are representing the honest scientific community, will say the Daily Mail lied. They can do that by saying:
    “The Daily Mail lied, and AGW is real, proven fact” or by saying:
    “The Daily Mail lied, and AGW is not at all a proven fact, however, I certainly think the Daily Mail is not representing my case well at all, by misrepresenting Met Office”.

    However, the person who wrote this article, mr. Briggs, decided to attack the DM critics. They are called ‘apologists’. Although they do not necessarily agree with the DM, they clearly show they are more interested in attacking one side of the argument, rather then attacking the biggest liar (clearly, the biggest liar is the exposed DM), and then representing what they think is the truth.

    Ctrl + F type “daily mail”, only hits are the few times i’ve mentioned it. Mr. Briggs, open your eyes, you are an apologist. Take a clear stance against lies, or you lose all credibility on first glance. Note that you also never mentioned many ‘facts’ from the original Wall street journal. A child could see you’re lying. Whether AGW is true or not, I don’t even discuss that, it’s pretty obvious you know you are misrepresenting facts right here, even if you do believe you are correct, deep down you know you’re lobbying here, rather then discussing facts. Ken Ham would be proud.

  42. Crispin in Waterloo

    1 February 2012 at 5:39 pm

    @Mark Schaffer
    > Do you disagree with the demonstrated physics showing CO2 trapping heat and that measurements have confirmed that the rise is CO2 is entirely due to the burning of fossil fuels?

    What demonstration?? Good grief. CO2 has been demonstrated absorbing heat in a narrow IR range, but we knew that long ago. A sealed container has been shown to get warmer if there is air with CO2 in it and it is irradiated. The radiation warms the air and the pressure rises and it further heats adiabatically. If it is not pressurised it does not increase in temperature. Double the CO2 inside; makes no difference. This was convincingly demonstrated last year. It will not take you long to find it in a search of the web.

    Measurements show that less than 1/2 the rise in CO2 is even possibly attributable to human burning of anything, let alone fossil fuels. And the methods are both suspect and fraught with other possible interpretations. Yes I have read about isotopes. There is not even agreement on how many years CO2 remains in the atmosphere to within 2 orders of magnitude.

    I personally would be very interested to see any experiment that showed the CO2 in the atmosphere causes more warming than the off-setting cooling influence of increased storm height. The CO2 attribution question is a difficult one to resolve.

    Were you aware that there is not enough accessible carbon based fuels to double the atmospheric CO2 level? Ever? Most catastrophists blithely ignore this and talk about CO2 as if there was an infinite supply of oil and coal available. You may have heard of ‘peak oil’. When the CO2 was 7000 ppm a great deal was locked up in limestone and reefs. Oh, and it was not warmer then. That may interest you.

    Perhaps the ultimate empirical observation will be convincing: when the CO2 level starts to stall, then drop as the oceans cool in the coming 30 years. There will be a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

  43. “A scientist is one who generates knowledge (what is necessarily the case) about the world. Do you have evidence that Briggs’ scientists are not generating knowledge?”

    A definition that includes Rutan (an aircraft designer and, with perhaps Kelly Johnson and a couple of others, one of the most brilliant of the last 100 years) is pretty broad. He characterizes himself as a designer and engineer. Smart guy? Yes. Scientist? No.

  44. Hi
    yes, William, your comment at Greg’s made it thru and he responded… as did Phil. It looks like a lot of points being scored on different pitches, using different rules and different games.

  45. Rob Ryan said @ 1 February 2012 at 5:45 pm

    “A scientist is one who generates knowledge (what is necessarily the case) about the world. Do you have evidence that Briggs’ scientists are not generating knowledge?”

    A definition that includes Rutan (an aircraft designer and, with perhaps Kelly Johnson and a couple of others, one of the most brilliant of the last 100 years) is pretty broad. He characterizes himself as a designer and engineer. Smart guy? Yes. Scientist? No.

    The Git’s Dictionary of Science & Technology defines an engineer as “One engaged in the science and art of engineering practice”. Yes, the definition of science is necessarily broad. All attempts to narrow it in order to exclude pseudo-science have had the unfortunate effect of eliminating science that we wish to include.

    Now, you have not answered the Git’s question: “Do you have evidence that Briggs’ scientists are not generating knowledge?” You have only asserted that Rutan is an engineer as if that automagically excluded him from being a scientist. Does that mean if one is a scientist, that one cannot be an engineer? I’d ask my brother who appeared to be a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, a parent, a cricket coach and many other things, but he died recently.

  46. Git, be happy with your broad definition of “scientist”, I’ll stick with one that reserves the term “scientist” for those that have proven to have generated knowledge with a PhD thesis in science or have shown to have made other contributions to science.

    Have you got evidence that Rutan himself claims to be a scientist, rather than an engineer?

  47. Rob Ryan,

    Would you agree Burt Rutan is an engineer? Would you agree engineers are good with numbers? Engineering is applied science. Statistics is applied math. It seems the evidence for CAGW relies heavily on statistical techniques yet it seems hardly any of the climate scientists are experts in statistics. Some certainly seem to have gone out of their way to prove that statement. One even quite vocally so and proudly proclaimed that he wasn’t a statistician. I hear he has been recently tweeting madly. So if you’re worried about someone stepping outside of their profession, why aren’t climate scientists using statistics included?

  48. So what exactly are you doing Mr Briggs? You take an ANIMATED GIF that is meant highlight how climate skeptics tend cherry pick short periods vs climate realists preferring to look at the big picture then try to make some point about the statistics of an illustrative diagram! You even went to the trouble converting the GIF file into a JPG, just to make sure no-one would be able to see the real image. Then remove the caption at the top to change what it appears to be so you can misrepresent it to people.

    There are names for that sort of behaviour and most of them have legal conotations.

    For those who are interested in the real graph try this

    Or if embedding it didn’t work, go here
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/SkepticsvRealistsv3.gif

  49. The quest to educate people that the temperature “data” is not data is an impossible one IMO. You can make all the arguments you like but there is a lack of basic statistical understanding out there (and a lack of common sense, i mean how can a measurement taken 100 years ago be data after it has been adjusted by a model?!), as you can see from some of the responses to this blog post.

    Then you add in the use of linear trend lines, its enough to make one cry!!

    As for Phil Plait, certainly one of the most close-minded folk in the blogosphere. He belongs in the dark ages punishing ‘heretical’ thoughts…

  50. Glenn Tamblyn, you’re looking at the data, you’re supposed to watch the monkey.

  51. Nick

    Thats why I posted a message for the monkey. Have a look at the real graph Nick to see what Briggs did. That is if you are interested in accurate representation of things, not plagiarism & distortion.

  52. Glenn Tamblyn —
    My goodness, man, what a rant! After you get down from that high horse, please trot over to Phil Plait’s website — that is the subject of this post, after all — and see just who turned that .gif into a .jpg.

  53. Glenn Tamblyn, I’ve seen it, just happened to read an article about it. I was just quoting it because it showed exactly what you just said. I also posted a comment on this article earlier, emphasizing the same problem we’re seeing here.

    The thing is, this was never about any graph, or moving .gif, this was about a couple of reporters clearly misrepresenting facts, misquoting met office, falsely claiming 16 scientists were relevant in the field of climatology, etc.

    Then, what Briggs is doing, is simply drawing our attention to what he thinks is a mistake in an article written by a critic of those blatant lies, which is a clear sign that Briggs knows the articles are full of lies (otherwise, if he was genuinely upset by colleagues making mistakes, he would’ve written a furious article about tDM and tWSJ as well). That ‘mistake’, which is not actually a mistake, obviously, is the monkey, the data is the mountain of evidence suggesting the earth is warming because of human behavior. I was drawing your attention to the monkey in an attempt to be sarcastic about the slow and steady destruction of the earth.

  54. Briggs

    1 February 2012 at 6:41 pm

    What I am doing, Glenny, is marveling at your accusations. I took the graph exactly as the Bad Astronomy guy had it on his site.

    Legal connotations forsooth!

  55. Anyone else notice that Skeptical Science GIF that I have seen at numerous locations including comments about this article seems to cut off the last couple years in the long-term trend while showing them in the short-term trends. Is that an accident or what Dr. Briggs would call the work of a “very clever magician”.

  56. Harold If you go to plait’s post and click on the image it takes you here

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/going-down-the-up-escalator-part-1.html

    Brigg’s doesn’t have the link

  57. Andrew W, I’ll stick with one that reserves the term “scientist” for those that have proven to have generated knowledge with a PhD thesis in science or have shown to have made other contributions to science.

    I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong but a PhD only means that possessor once did independent research and was able to keep it from being trashed by a committee. It doesn’t convey nor indicate special abilities. It’s on par with an engineer’s first project.

    Burt has made same very remarkable advances in aerospace technology using much of the same math he mentions in the WSJ. If anything, engineers know their reputation stands on whether their work “works”. They constantly check themselves. They don’t hide behind “trust me, I’m an expert” and don’t lose the data upon which their works are based. An engineer knows his (or her) work must stand the test of time. It has to be reliable.

    So, I put more reliance on someone who expects their work to withstand scrutiny, like Burt, than I would place on a certain State College, PA denizen (as an example).

  58. Dav:

    Non-sequitur. I’m addressing the article, its authors, and Dr. Briggs’ commentary. My understanding of whether engineers (of whom I employ 6, all registered in CA) are good with numbers, whether climate scientists are or should be statisticians, etc. is not germane to the topic.

    My worry isn’t about someone stepping outside of their profession, particularly if the have expertise in the field into which they step (which Rutan clearly does not, as demonstrated by his lengthy pdf, his acknowledged brilliance as an aircraft designer and the sycophantic cheering on WUWT notwithstanding). My worry is about the misrepresentation of the article. Rutan stands out in particular but few of the others (there are exceptions) have the background to characterize themselves as having expertise on the subject at hand.

  59. Speak of the devil and who should appear?….my apologies Glenn I realize you are not the devil but your timing was quite impressive. Anyways as discussed, the GIF (called the escalator) I was asking about is now linked courtesy of Glenn Tamblyn.

  60. Also Harold, if you go to the SkS post it clearly says that the data is from BEST. ANd Briggs coiuld have found this out just as easily by following the link from Plait’s post.

    So Brigg’s comment “See that red line? It’s drawn on a time series—wait! No it isn’t. Those dots are not what Plait thinks they are. They are not—they most certainly are not—global temperatures. Each dot instead is an estimate of global temperature: worse, most dots are also different kinds of estimates from each other. That is, the first dot was estimated using data X and method A, and the second dot was estimated using data Y and method B, and so forth. Well, maybe the first and second dot were the same, but older dots are different than the newer ones.”

    Is simply wrong. All done using the same method that BEST apply to all their temperature series. But Brigg’s says otherwise. Says it very definitely. So how does he have this certainty when he is in fact wrong. Is that how a Statistician to The Stars operates. Does the stats but doesn’t check the sources of the data they analysing?

    ‘The Stars’ may like that sort of Statistics, but to most other folks its more like Numerology.

  61. Dav:

    Many (far from all, far even from a majority imho) engineers carry the belief that “because I design things upon which lives depend, I have to be correct. Therefore, my intuition about the way things are enables me to determine the accuracy of things presented in unrelated fields without doing the requisite study and hard work to develop subject matter expertise in that field.” Rutan is an archetypical example.

  62. Glenn Tamblyn —
    Yes, Plait’s .jpg image was hot-linked to the same SkS article which was hot-linked just above it. Please look back at your post at 6:18 — see anything wrong with it?

  63. Blair

    Its because the last year or so of the BEST data aren’t reliable enough, including the fact that the big down spike at the end exists because it is only sampling part of the year. So the SkS graph is showing two ways in how one should treat the data.

    Yet you had formed a contrary view. See how easy it is to be misled by people who aren’t very honest in how they present things.

  64. Hi William,

    I don’t really understand your point on predictions. The estimate of the global temp. comes from whatever averaging method of the local temperature anomalies. Since we’re interested in the temperature change of the global average, we should want the uncertainty of the average itself (the ‘error bars of the estimate’). Prediction uncertainty would provide the intervals for a new hypothetical local temperature (I’m ignoring location effects here). Figure 9 of the BEST analysis (http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/berkeley-earth-averaging-process.pdf) shows 95% data uncertainty using different methods (results incomplete, but illustrative), and they’re not as bad as you state them to be.

    I think the presence of data uncertainty is a great point that’s not made enough in these discussions, but at the same time averaging is a tried and true way of reducing that uncertainty. I’m pretty sure the significance of the difference between 1940s temps and 2000s temps (another average!) will pass in flying colors.

  65. Rob Ryan,

    See my comment to Andrew http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=5138&cpage=1#comment-58512
    In general, an engineer places his reputation on the line with every public statement.

  66. Interesting comment by Tamino as well here http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/william-m-briggs-numerologist-to-the-stars/ He’s no slouch as a statistician either. And he picked up something I missed

    “Now—here’s the real tricky part—we do not want the error bars from the estimates, but from the predictions. Remember, the models that gave these dots tried to predict what the global temperature was. When we do see error bars, researchers often make the mistake of showing us the uncertainty of the model parameters, about which we do not care, we cannot see, and are not verifiable. Since the models were supposed to predict temperature, show us the error of the predictions. ”

    Doh! Briggs doesn’t actually understand what he is talking about. These aren’t models, they aren’t predictions. They are measurement. An area weighted average of measured temperatures. Not a prediction in sight.

    So he has tried to create a storm in a teacup but forgot the teacup!

  67. Briggs

    1 February 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Passingby,

    Thanks. I did. I wrote this (let me know if it shows):

    Actually, of course, an average is a model—at least if you want to attach any meaning to it. It at least assumes the data that went into the model is measured without error.

    I’ve also pointed out that the points represent different models (i.e. averages), and that the uncertainty in these are not accounted for. This is true. On my site (under the Start Here tab in the relevant climate posts) I go into great detail about how to treat temperature and time series, particularly how to speak of uncertainty. If you can trouble yourself to read these, you’ll understand why I use the word “prediction” (and the other terms: see my All of Statistics thread from this week). It’s just too much for me to re-type everything here.

    Now, I’ve been asked by others to examine some of your other statistical work. It’s quite poor, so I suggest you spend some of your time boning up on the meaning behind the terms you use?

    And my dear Tamino, condescending?

    Rattus—she hasn’t, but boy the stuff she’d learn!

    Deep Climate–try this from the 1940s.

    Glenn—now, now. You know better. The graph is exactly the same as Plait presented.

    Glenn,

    Tamino no slouch? More like slouching towards Bethlehem. (Hit the link in the notes of this post.)

  68. Briggs said: “What I am doing, Glenny, is marveling at your accusations. I took the graph exactly as the Bad Astronomy guy had it on his site.”

    The Bad Astronomy graph is linked to the original Skeptical Science article and graph.
    Maybe in future you will think before you click the publish button. If you wanted a balanced view, you would allow visitors to your site to see the source in a similar manor.

  69. Briggs said: “Glenn—now, now. You know better. The graph is exactly the same as Plait presented. ”

    NO it is not.

  70. Briggs

    1 February 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Paul D,

    I guess Plait didn’t want a balanced view as he presented the same graph I am. And, anyway, because other people made different errors does forgive Plait of his.

  71. Andrew W said @ 1 February 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Git, be happy with your broad definition of “scientist”, I’ll stick with one that reserves the term “scientist” for those that have proven to have generated knowledge with a PhD thesis in science or have shown to have made other contributions to science.

    Have you got evidence that Rutan himself claims to be a scientist, rather than an engineer?

    No, I have no evidence that Rutan “claims to be a scientist rather than an engineer”. I’m not sure why you see these as mutually exclusive. Rutan’s main expertise, it seems agreed, is innovative aeronautics, the science involved with the study, design, and manufacturing of flying machines.

    If, as seems likely, you are claiming that aeronautics has nothing to do with science, it behooves you to explicate what it is: magic, alchemy, legerdemain, voodoo, witchcraft?

  72. Glenn,

    If the data is unreliable, should it not then have been omitted from both graphs?

    As for my view, I had not formed one at that point. I provided two possible alternatives and waited with an open mind to be informed. Funny thing is…some of us actually do come to these debates without set positions.

  73. Briggs said “I guess Plait didn’t want a balanced view as he presented the same graph I am.”

    Presentation is not purely visual. You do bot know why he displayed it as a jpg and created a link. There may have been technical difficulties. Given you know the facts. You can easily link yours to the Skeptical Science article and put that right.

  74. Glen. “An area weighted average of measured temperatures” is still a model and not a measurement as you claim. Obviously you have no clue about spatial science matters.

  75. Dav:

    You’ve got an interesting view of achieving a Ph.D. in a scientific field. Considering that dissertations take many months at best, must be original research, and must be defended; that one must sit for so-called “comprehensives,” that one must successfully undertake significant coursework at the graduate level and perform to high standards, to compare it to “an engineer’s first project” is both insulting and ludicrous. Don’t think I’m taking personal offense – I have no Ph.D.

    That aside, most engineering is done by getting data with respect to design criteria and plugging it into a computer program. I employ engineers and work with many others – structural, civil, mechanical, geotechnical – and none of them do a lot of math and what they do isn’t difficult, rarely if ever extending beyond high-school algebra. They’ll typically have taken mathematics in college through a semester of differential equations and a semester of linear algebra. They’ll have solved a non-homogeneous second order differential equation or two; they’ll have determined eigenvalues and eigenvectors for some linear systems, they’ll take several courses in their preferred area of engineering, they’ll take a semester of materials, they’ll take a semester of engineering thermodynamics and, likely, they’ll have taken an introductory statistics course. They will graduate with a B.S. degree (typically).

    For a working engineer (who is registered) these courses will have been taken years in the past (since they must typically become an EIT – Engineer in Training – and then work under the direction of a registered engineer for several years). During this time, they do not solve differential equations, they do not determine eigenvectors and eigenvalues, they do not perform statistical analyses. They draft using Autocad, Catia, Solidworks, etc. and they plug design criteria and material properties into FEA programs that are either general (ANSYS, Nastran) or one written more specifically for their field (ABAQUS for example for Structural Engineers).

    None of this gives an engineer specific subject matter expertise beyond their field. Some develop such expertise and good for them. Rutan may have done so in other fields but clearly has not in climatology or geophysics.

  76. Link to the original graph:

    http://sks.to/escalator

  77. The take-home message is that there is an inordinate number of people who do not know what a measurement is. Could this alone explain how facile they appear to be wrt CAGW?

  78. By the way, I meant to mention that what engineers do all day is, quite correctly, called “modeling.” The software they use produces finite element “models.”

    Hmmmm……

  79. Blair

    The point of the graphis was to show how data should and should not be used. Contrasting the appropriate way of handling that data vs the common inappropriate method often used by skeptics.

    It was to demonstrate the flaws in an approach

  80. The accusations about the graph seem the silliest of the year (so far). Plait names it “skepticalscience_globalwarming” and SkS presents it as the way “realists” (=the SkS authors) view global warming. The escalator has nothing to do with Briggs’ point.

  81. I think the problem here is a lack of understand about what education is about.
    As Glenn has stated, the graph is intended to be used in the context of understanding specific point. eg. it is wrong to cherry pick a short section of data that shows one thing, when YOU KNOW the complete data shows something else. Such principles apply to the production of cars as it does to temperatures or the statistics of pink elephants.

  82. Maurizio if the graph is not relevant to Briggs point. Then it shouldn’t have been used.

  83. Pompous Git:

    EXCELLENT strawman, congratulations! No one said, and I expect no one would say, that “aeronautics has nothing to do with science.” The argument is over whether an aircraft designer, no matter how brilliant is, BASED ON HIS BEING AN AIRCRAFT DESIGNER, a scientist. It’s not about whether aerodynamics is a branch of science, it’s not about whether one who designs aircraft might possibly also be a scientist, etc.

    It was the WSJ that claimed that Rutan is a scientist (“16 scientists”). I don’t know if Rutan would, and I expect he would not, claim to be a scientist. He doesn’t do so in his pdf tome. He actually quotes one James P. Hogan as follows: “”Science doesn’t really exist. Scientific beliefs are either proved wrong or they quickly become engineering. Everything else is untested speculation.”

  84. Just to avoid confusion the person who is posting as paul d is not me–pauld– who wrote several posts above him

  85. Glen says:

    Doh! Briggs doesn’t actually understand what he is talking about. These aren’t models, they aren’t predictions. They are measurement. An area weighted average of measured temperatures. Not a prediction in sight.

    Of course since all of the temperature are all prefect measurements of a real thing without a prediction in sight and not models they we get exactly the same thing for each perfect measurement, hence HADCRUT is the same as BEST is the same as CRUTEM and they are all perfect aligned.

    Seriously, you are really going to argue this ?

  86. For a complete debunking of the entity calling itself “Crispin in Waterloo” see here:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/06/how-much-of-the-recent-cosub2sub-increase-is-due-to-human-activities/

    The rest of it’s argument/assertion is just as fallacious.

  87. “Smokey says:
    1 February 2012 at 3:25 pm

    As soon as I saw “Skeptical Science” on the chart I knew it was bogus. If BA wants credibility he needs to use a credible source, not one funded by George Soros and run by a cartoonist.”

    Prove it re George Soros? You can’t just make statements that have zero proof.

  88. Glenn Tamblyn said: “An area weighted average of measured temperatures” implying that the graph slope is based solely on temperature measurements.

    Some issues with area weighted averages of temperatures: http://www.appinsys.com/globalwarming/GW_Part2_GlobalTempMeasure.htm

    The main problem with temperatures seems to be coverage bias. The other problem is the lack of an analysis of variance and summary of those results in text or on the graph. The red line is a model of a model; a primary purpose of models like that is prediction.

  89. Rob Ryan,

    Fine arts majors undoubtedly view engineers the way you depicted but the bottom line is an engineer knows that no matter how many times he’s right the only thing anyone will remember is the one (and maybe only) time he was wrong. So double-triple-quadruple checking is de rigueur. At no time does an engineer expect anyone will just take his word and expects his work will undergo (sometimes intense) scrutiny. His reputation depends on being right. Engineering results are checked against real-world facts. Compare this to some fields were pontification is the rule and scrutiny is shunned and even held in contempt. (“Don’t try this at home folks! We’re the experts”). Some of these fields don’t check their models of reality against reality. Care to guess how most of climate science measures up?

    BTW: those math things from college (linear and nonlinear analysis and calculus for example) are every day tools. How do you think the output from NASTRAN and the like gets checked? And, yes, they are indeed checked. Reputations depend on it.

    In these days of rubber stamp degrees in English and Basket Weaving Skills and Personal Relations I guess it’s easy to sneer at a BS (as if a PhD in Basket Weaving is really something). An engineer is acutely aware that while he may call himself an engineer after graduation he has only been trained to become one. That BS you sniggle at is just something to hang on the wall and makes getting that first job easier. It’s what one says and does that matters — not what degree is held.

    You make it sound like you feel you haven’t any expertise or technical skill whatever. I say this because it’s rather easy to check the facts and verify previous work — at least it is when the data aren’t hidden or destroyed and the methods are described in more than vague terms. Reliance on career trappings should only be an initial reaction. I hate to tell you this but most of the climate science stuff is quite trivial. Rocket science it ain’t. You apparently give far too much weight to a person’s early career achievements (like degrees) than to their current work. You also are a bit clueless as to what engineers actually do. But, hey! Not to worry! We can’t be all things can we? We each muddle along as best we can under the circumstances.

  90. What does the data shows about AGW?

    http://bit.ly/ADRqpM

    The above data shows, IPCC’s climate models are wrong because observed global mean temperatures are LESS than model projection for CO2 emission held constant at the 2000 level.

    AGW is not supported by the data (so far).

  91. Rob Ryan: I have both an engineering PhD and extensive engineering experience which particularly qualifies me to comment directly in reference to your statements regarding the same. With all due respect, while you certainly may know what the engineers in your employ “do,” you apparently have little understanding of what engineers do as a general rule. By definition, that alone disqualifies your comparison to a dissertation though, I must admit, my topic was quite a bit more involved than a first project. Mine was, however, a real world research project (radar), and I was specifically told I was required to advance the science if I expected to qualify for candidacy. Engineering is, after all, the practical application of science and math, not just plugging data into models (models are indeed useful, however).

    So far, a bunch of people that don’t really know how to analyze data, let alone ordered data such as time series, grasping at straws proving they know as little as dear old phil. Cmon Phil., step it up, prove you aren’t just a slave to your paycheck. Let’s see that moon hoax “brilliance” that made you famous!

    Mark

  92. LOL @ Rob Ryan tying himself in a knot indignantly waving the holy PhD in the face of those who actually carry out applied science on a daily basis. Both terms, “scientist” and “engineer” are broad, and appropriately so. There is a whole interesting area of study called the philosophy of science that is worth discussing in its own right. The collective wisdom reached over hundreds of years after numerous debates among thinkers more capable than all of us here is that a definitive, bright-line definition of science is not possible. Behold the Demarcation Problem.

    However, more relevant to the current discussion: It doesn’t make any difference whether Rutan or Mann or anyone else is a “scientist” by some contrived definition. The question is, who is right?

  93. “This question keeps coming back, although we know the answer very well: all of the recent CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to human activities, in spite of the fact that both the oceans and the land biosphere respond to global warming.” (the opening line of the ‘real climate’ blog)
    the proponents know ‘all’ sources of, amounts of, and rates of CO2 emissions ? I’d like to see that !
    hat’s off to those 16 scientists brave enough to find answers to politically difficult questions, and make their voices heard.
    it does seem that computer programs make it too easy to fabricate evidence, make predictions, demonstrate bias…
    how many agw predictions have been demonstrated, with the passage of time, to be correct ?
    maybe it’s time the agw crew walked away, quit, retired. ‘DCIM’ !

  94. Mann’s understanding of physics may also be likened to an overly enthusiastic undergraduate who left the lecture early.

    In 1981 he made the huge mistake of assuming the Earth’s surface acts like a blackbody so he could attribute 33 degrees of warming to carbon dioxide and its colleagues. It doesn’t and he shouldn’t have. See http://climate-change-theory.com

  95. @Rob Ryan

    You obviously have a very limited range of experience with real-world engineering disciplines, including product reliability, quality assurance, manufacturing and industrial engineering. 30 years with a BSME in these fields trains one not to make rash generalizations.

    But of course that’s why AGW alarmists must attack reputations rather than simply prove the science and statistics.

  96. To all:

    I don’t sneer or sniggle at the B.S. degree – it’s what I have and it’s in mathematics and I’m proud of it. I don’t sneer at and demean engineers – the ones I know and the ones I employ are bright, eager, engaged, highly ethical, and produce excellent work within tight time frames on a regular basis. I don’t demean Rutan – in the field of aircraft design and aeronautical engineering. I don’t know him personally (though I do personally know a close friend of his) but I’m reasonably sure he would not make the claim that he’s a scientist. I suppose he’d say that what he does (or did actually, having retired) involved scientific principles and used science but my reading of him is that he thinks he’s a designer and an engineer, not a scientist, and rightfully damn proud of it.

    To the nitwit who felt it was necessary to point out that Nastran, ANSYS, ABAQUS, etc, utilize advanced mathematical algorithms, I say “thank you Captain Obvious.” To the claim that “the results are checked”: yes, they’re checked for plausibility, they may be checked for extreme and degenerate cases, etc. But if you mean that the sparse matrices are analyzed by hand or anything similar, I’d call you clueless.

    I’m sure there are many engineers who have kept up with the cutting edge developments in engineering, particularly in the quickly developing areas of materials science, bioengineering, etc. but, as I said, I’m very familiar with the day to day tasks undertaken by many dozens of engineers encompassing the fields of civil, structural, mechanical, and geotechnical (not aeronautical however) and they do little by hand and what they do is trivial from a mathematical point of view (some algebra, some trigonometry). Few of them program using anything other than Excel. A few use MathCad.

    I certainly agree that it matters not if someone is a scientist, an engineer, an accountant, a plumber, or a janitor. It only matters who’s correct. But the WSJ article proclaimed “16 scientists…” It did not proclaim “16 smart people we believe to be correct….” so the term must be considered to have meaning by someone, mustn’t it?

    As to correctness, a cursory review of Rutan’s massive pdf entitled “An Engineers Critique of Global Warming ‘Science'” (scare quotes his) located at:

    http://rps3.com/Files/Ochkosh_2010_talks/Oshkosh2010.EngrCritique.AGW.pdf

    shows it’s both fraught with errors and shoddy analysis and follows the typical “it’s not happening and if it is it’s not harmful and if it is we didn’t cause it and if we did we can’t do anything about it and if we can it would cost too much and anyway we landed on the moon and we fly around at subzero temperatures in rarefied air and we can adapt” line of reasoning.

    Rutan is a wonderful aircraft designer, one of the most creative, productive, and financially successful of our time or any time and clearly a brilliant man. But that doesn’t make him an expert on whatever subject in which he decides to dabble. His “Engineer’s Critique” shows that admirably.

  97. Eric (Sceptic)

    This paragraph from the article you linked rather telling:
    “The following figure shows a calculation of straight temperature averages for all of the reporting stations for 1950 to 2000 [http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/nvst.html]. While a straight average is not meaningful for global temperature calculation (since areas with more stations would have higher weighting), it illustrates that the disappearance of so many stations may have introduced an upward temperature bias. As can be seen in the figure, the straight average of all global stations does not fluctuate much until 1990, at which point the average temperature jumps up. ”

    The writer of this post obviously doesn’t know how the temperature products are calculated. None of them average temperatures (area weighted or not) for the obvious reason that such a method WOULD be vulnerable to all sorts of station bias issues. Temperatures changes are reported as anomalies. This is not simply a case of averaging temperatures, seeing how the average has changed an calling that an anomaly. The temperature records first calculate the anomally for each single station relative to its own long term average value, producing an anomaly value for each station. Only then do they do an area weighted average of the anomalies.

    This makes the calculation substantially more robust wrt to station biases etc. And there aren’t any significant coverage issues. If the station count world wide dropped low enough, yes. But the current number of stations adequately covers the Earth.

    I discuss this in more detail in a 4 part series that starts here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/OfAveragesAndAnomalies_pt_1A.html

    Since you are a regular commenter at SkS I thought you might have read it.

    As for error margins etc. Go to the original sources – BEST, GISS etc and they do include all that.

    This graphic, being called the Escalator is a reference to the TACTICS used by skeptics to misrepresent information.

  98. Today we will get treated to an annual climate prediction from another Phil in Punxsutawney, PA. Not sure of his track record but he undoubtedly enjoys his subsidy. One of his relatives who lives under my garage rarely makes comments on the weather.

  99. Rob Ryan,

    You’re just digging the hole deeper. It really does seem as suggested in http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=5138&cpage=1#comment-58557 that you are waving the PhD as if it were somehow proof of correctness. You are complaining about the WSJ’s use of English? Scientist vs. Engineer? Isn’t what Burt and the others had to say important? What does it matter how the WSJ characterized things in its headline? Only those with PhD’s are capable of understanding such a subtle topic? C’mon. There are no factual errors you can illuminate for us? Handwaving is all you can do? Stop being silly.

    shows it’s both fraught with errors and shoddy analysis
    But that doesn’t make him an expert on whatever subject in which he decides to dabble. His “Engineer’s Critique” shows that admirably.

    That’s a little better but you still have this “only the annointed can understand this stuff” on your brain. Burt’s PPT would be a good place to start. Now the errors and shoddiness are ….. ? Remember, that’s all we care about here. If he’s correct his personal failings are irrelevant.

    Your turn.

  100. Rob Ryan,

    First off, take a chill pill. It’s just a blog.

    I have a small engineering firm as well. We make all sorts of machinery and equipment and we do some FEA modeling for high pressure components and for parts subjected to vacuum. I have worked in this field for some time. We use tools a bit more sophisticated than Excel and MathCad but we use them as well and do classic analysis as needed.

    Here’s the point. We do a model, and then we test and compare. Example: small high pressure bearing component fails FEA but experience suggests it will work fine. Rationale – stress will “dish-off” from concentration points to larger geometries and model shows failure due to grid resolution. Next step; test the part by pressurization. Measure the part for deflection. Write report – failed FEA; passed pressure test; good for flight.

    We are making a prediction; an informed prediction based on both modeling and empirical observation.

    And I have noticed we all get into rhetorical trouble with analogies but here goes: GCM are also models – not a straight analog to the finite element model I just described, but still models and rather than mechanical are to my limited understanding based on Navier-Stokes equations for fluid state. I admit I have not got a grasp of how boundary conditions and other necessary constraining conditions are done in climate models; but I know they also make predictions – in fact – without these predictions what would we have to talk about?

    If said GCM prediction is falsified, this is interesting, no? Does this not act as an indicator that our model-informed understanding is in need of confirmation; or does this not indicate that our model makes us too certain?

    Please consider re-reading Dr Brigg’s post, especially here:

    “Now—here’s the real tricky part—we do not want the error bars from the estimates, but from the predictions. Remember, the models that gave these dots tried to predict what the global temperature was. When we do see error bars, researchers often make the mistake of showing us the uncertainty of the model parameters, about which we do not care, we cannot see, and are not verifiable. Since the models were supposed to predict temperature, show us the error of the predictions.

    I’ve done this (on different but similar data) and I find that the parameter uncertainty is plus or minus a tenth of degree or less. But the prediction uncertainty is (in data like this) anywhere from 0.1 to 0.5 degrees, plus or minus. That is, prediction uncertainty is about five times larger.”

    Food for thought.

  101. GregO

    From my also limited understanding GCMs are actually closer to FEA than you think. At their heart they divide different parts of the planet up into 3D boxes then model processes within the box and also flows of matter and energy across the box boundaries. In particular they are applying all the conservation laws to these processes and flows. They then let this evolve over time and report what transpires. Commonly the ‘spin up a model’ by starting with a very cold earth and let it run till it stabilises. Then they add perturbations like changes in radiative force from GH gases.

    However, the point you make then reference to Brigg’s text suggesting that the points oin the graph are predictions is simply not true, No models are involved, no GCM’s, no predictions. Each point is simply calculated by applying various averaging techniques to observational data.

  102. wow.

    look at all the people who justified hiding the decline attacking Briggs for failing to link to the source of a graphic.

    look at all the people who thought hiding data was a great idea demanding that Briggs link to a source.?

    Holy crap. If you guys took this kind of attitude back in 2007 or 2008 or 2009 when folks like mcIntyre were demanding more transparency, you wouldn’t have defended the crap you did.

    I suppose we can go look at all RC, Tamino and Sks graphics with this new standard.

  103. Jeez.
    I find it hard to understand that there are people that don’t understand that the global average temperature is derived from a model.

  104. Excellent demolition of this post by Tamino.

    Interesting to see some of the comments over there.

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/william-m-briggs-numerologist-to-the-stars/

    Greg Laden weighs in at:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/02/william_m_briggs_has_misunders.php

  105. WOW Toby:
    You are all excited about Tammy making a bigger fool of himself.
    Tomgrant:
    Output from a model using Extrapolated WAG. GIGO is the underlying principle behind AGW.

  106. When Pigs can fly the Chicken Little Brigade will get it right!

  107. Glenn Tamblyn,

    Thanks for the link to that post of yours at SkS. I had forgotten you wrote it and I did indeed read it but stopped when you created the new concept of “climate teleconnection” (you wrote: “In Climatology this is the concept of ‘Teleconnection’ – that the climates of different locations are correlated to each other over long distances.”).

    It’s true that teleconnection results in correlation but in reality teleconnection has positive and negative correlation. Your method of long distance temperature averaging assumes positive correlation and has nothing to do with teleconnection, sorry.

    Regarding your reply above, it does not matter if a weighted average is performed on anomalies or on the absolute temperatures, the result is the same. It does not address the bias introduced by dropping stations. Also you have not addressed the fact that the red line is a model. I also contend that the weighted averaging is a model because the averaging techniques require various assumptions about physical reality that you have not made explicit.

  108. Glenn Tamblyn:

    Admittedly, you are offering a short-hand description of how GCMs function but you glossed over a critical component. GCMs don’t “stabilize” without intervention. Multiple runs of the same model produce a range — typically quite broad — of results. The modeler chooses how to restrict the model’s output and, perhaps more important for this debate, how to report these restricted outputs to the public.

  109. Paul D – Can’t you read – I said the escalator has nothing to do with Briggs’ point. It’s the silly bit showing the negative trends allegedly seen only by skeptics.

    Plait recognized it as not relevant to the question “what has been happening to global temperatures” and used only the “realist” (ahr ahr!) part of the animated gif. And frankly, if Briggs comments about Plait, Briggs should comment about the graph Plait showed, not some other graph.

  110. Well, I’m tired of arguing the engineer point. I simply state that I’m reasonably sure that Rutan wouldn’t characterize himself as a scientist – he seems to have little respect for the label (“science doesn’t really exist…”). But the WSJ thought the label was important or influential or something. As for me, I have high regard for both professions.

    It fascinates me that no one has addressed Briggs’ double standard wherein he changes what the “scientists” state in their letter by paraphrasing it in such a way that it’s no longer in violation of the point he’s making in his post.

    WSJ: “Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.”

    Briggs paraphrasing them: “just as the WSJ‘s scientists claim, we can’t say with any certainty that the temperatures have been increasing this past decade.”

  111. Darn, I wanted to be the 100th reader who wrote the comment on this post.

    My hyperopic right eye tells me that there APPEARS to have an overall positive trend factor (the slope/coefficient associated with time/parameter) since 1973. My myopic left eye tells me that there again APPEARS to have a negative trend since 2005 for this PARTICULAR DATA SETS.

    A conclusion based on fewer data point is usually associated with a higher uncertainty/error.

    The line represents the estimated regression model. No confidence intervals (error bars) for the mean value or predicted value of y are shown in the picture. Anyway, it’d probably only show that the majority of, if not all of, the data points fall inside the intervals, provided the model is adequate.

    However, as we are concerned about the trend/ slope parameter, the standard error of the slope parameter should be reported.

    My problem with many analyses presented on some blogs is that they don’t perform model checking using residuals plot. No, we can’t just pick a model and use it to make conclusions.

    Oh, btw, computing sample average is a special case of linear model with a constant term only. Try fit=model(y~1), input y first though, and check out the R output.

    120th?!

  112. If temperatures stayed absolutely stagnant for the next 100 years, a linear regression starting in 1973 would still show an upward trend; thus any model based off such a simplistic statistical tool would still predict higher temperatures in the following years.

    After reading all of the posts and comments from this site and others (Laden, Plait, Tamino), it seems no one fully understands Briggs’ position. Excuse me for speaking for you Briggs (and correct me if I’m wrong), but he has stated numerous times on this blog and elsewhere that it’s obviously true that humans are affecting the climate. Everyone and everything affects the climate. There is no denial, thus, he is not a “denier.” His qualm is with the perceived magnitude of human impact on the climate, and more specifically, with over-certainty due to lack of statistical rigor. Let’s try and stick to the content of his objection rather than to the fact that he used a JPG instead of a GIF.

  113. I find it fascinating that the good doctor accuses another doctor of making an error “like an undergraduate that left lecture early”, yet makes that very prematurely departing undergraduate error himself.
    “Remember, the models that gave these dots tried to predict what the global temperature was.” is incorrect, the data points (dots) are actually the AVERAGED MEASURED TEMPERATURES from ALL data that was MEASURED. So, in the good doctor’s world, measurement is prediction. Averaging is fallacious. If so, then statistics is a pseudoscience that is based in trickery, which it most certainly is NOT.
    No, from what I’ve read, the good doctor plays with semantics, disparages data sets as predictions, which is an egregious falsehood, as observed, averaged data is not a prediction, it is averaged data.
    Frankly, the only thing the good doctor here has done is make me suspect anything he has ever said in the past and anything he may say in the future. For, with his logic in this instance, he equates observation with fiction in a nineteen eighty fouresque manner in the grandest example of doublethink one could ever imagine!

  114. Dikran Marsupial

    2 February 2012 at 11:52 am

    Am I right in thinking that you are asking for the (quadratic) error bars on the regression to be presented in addition to the maximum likelihood regression?

  115. Rob Ryan:

    From one of the definition below of difference between science and engineering, I have reached my conclusion long time ago, the so-called climate scientists are using their or our current generation’s lousy understanding of the nature and try to come up with some law of nature in Engineering type of practice using mathematical and phsysical equation in terms of model and numerical simulation.

    I am also a PhD in Mechanical Engineer in the field of computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer. What Climate “scientist” or modeler do are no different from what I do to model a flow and heat transfer behavior of combustion gas turbine. But every engineer like me knows the fact of modeling:

    “Garbage in, Garbage out” for the simulation.

    Maybe Climate modeler never has the concern of such principle, is it because they are not subjected to the immediate test result of their prediction 100 or 1000 years down the road. They can claim what ever they “predict” and claims like a inevitable truth. This is bullshit !

    The difference between Science and Engineering:

    The scientist seeks to understand nature at its core, to get to the fundamental essence. To do this, the scientist typically strips away extraneous effects and dives deeply into a very narrow element of nature. And from this look comes what is known as the laws of nature: energy and mass are the same thing, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so on. There are lots of laws of nature, and they apply everywhere all the time.

    Engineers live with the laws of nature. We have no choice. Our goal is to design things that work within what nature allows us. To do this, we have to be able to predict the behavior of systems. So a big question for engineers is, how do we understand and predict the behavior of systems in which all the laws of nature apply everywhere all the time. This is an issue of integration, and it is every bit as difficult as finding the laws in the first place. To account for all the laws of nature everywhere all the time is an impossible task. So the engineer must find ways of determining which laws are important and which can be neglected, and how to approximate those laws that are important over space and time.

    Engineers do more than merely predict the future. We make decisions based in part on their predictions in the knowledge that their predictions cannot be both precise and certain. Understanding and applying the mathematics of this is also important. This includes the application of probability theory, decision theory, game theory, optimization, control theory, and other such mathematics in the engineering decision making context. This also is a legitimate area of research for engineering.

    Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_difference_between_science_and_engineering#ixzz1lF5Swqvs

  116. http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/02/william_m_briggs_has_misunders.php
    you might want to read this basically it explains why splines are bad

  117. I find it to be thoroughly amusing when clowns like you try SO hard to be high and mighty, as you are here Mr. Briggs. Of course, most people tend to feel bad for the feeble minded idiot who thumps his chest to feel important, but I am not most people. If you want to make an argument that real, thinking people will take seriously, drop the condescension, present your side, and move on. With your first “Old Phil” remark, the rest went right out the window.

  118. Rob Eyan,

    Thanks for your interesting argument but I didn’t find it compelling enough to believe Burt Rutan’s Powerpoint is “both fraught with errors and shoddy analysis” as you have claimed nor that anything regarding climate in the WSJ is false. Maybe you shouldn’t have rested your case on the weakest of points (assuming it a point at all).

    Bob Adams,

    I think Matt answered you here: http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=5154&cpage=1#comment-58631

  119. Wayne:

    As I mentioned, I’m finished with that argument. My point was that Rutan isn’t a scientist (and though I’m happy to be corrected BY HIM if I’m wrong, I think he does not want to be labelled as one), WSJ thinks the term “scientist” carries some sort of impact. I know what engineers (in general) do for a living. ‘Nuff said.

  120. Sks complains about cherry-picking the end-points.
    Sks produces “the escalator” to highlight the end-point problem.
    Briggs writes and article on dangers of cherry-picking the end-points.
    The bad astronomer removes the escalation animation, and uses the Sks chart.
    Briggs calls out the poor choice of end-points in the sks chart.
    And, Sks accuses Briggs of misrepresnting their chart.

    mmm Irony.

  121. Rob Ryan:

    My question to people or any self absorbed “Scientist” is, if the climate scientist , in particular climate modelers, are using the same basic methodolgy as engineer (fluid and heat transfer mathematical equation and physical or non-physical model) to do numerical simulation on a much more economical and political influential problem – the complex weather/climate problem than an Engineering one, why should climate modeling hold Sub-Par standard of rigor test of its modeling capability and validity?

    if A famous US aircraft engine maker can lose most of its market share financially due to untested unvalidated numerical prediction of their engine performance and wrong commitment to customer (I can tell you which engine maker if you don’t know), then as an analogy, who should we bill to if billions of $ wasted on the artificially blooned AGW problem based on incapable computer model. If we look back 50 years from now. can we charge back on You? Alarmist? The Climate Scientist as a whole? financial beneficiary of Cap and Trade Scheme ?

    In short, prematured science ‘consensus’ can lead to wrong policy and political decision that will affects billions people. This is my engineer point of view that demands rigor for any computing simulation on big problem

  122. I think that the disdain you have those who disagree with you really shows by using “uncertainty” as some mystical word that makes things unknowable really shows. As a statistician, you know that everything has uncertainty, particularly models. And that goes for spatial statistics as well. If you have a problem with a global simulation using station point data, then I see it reasonable to think you have a problem with a basic temperature map on the weather channel. You simply cannot have point data for every point on the Earth, or at a point in every pixel of the resolution. Thus, you interpolate… kriging, IDW, whatever… this where uncertainty comes in. But that’s not what this study was about: getting an average based on interpolation of stations that were “estimated.” Not even close.

    That model uses 39,028 stations of raw, point data (not modeled or estimated). http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/berkeley-earth-uhi.pdf… go here and look at the top of page 7 for the map of stations used. 67% of the stations showed positive slopes. And even if some data there is missing, the uncertainty created would be washed out by the robustness of dataset. So “uncertainty” is not as big of a deal as you make it out to be, and particularly not if you consider the size of the dataset. The uncertainty argument is really just a hand waving exercise in this case. A spatial study of which stations, worldwide were positive and which were negative would be a logical next step in this study. They did it for the US (page 10 of the paper).

    Unless, of course, you think uncertainty makes all models irrelevant. In that case, why bother modeling? And isn’t an average, really at its core, just a model in its plainest form?

  123. Thank you, sir, for taking the BadAstronomer down a notch. I used to be a faithful reader of his blog, until he completely went off the deep end. Anyone who connects AGW skepticism with creationism has lost their objectivity. There are simply too many uncertainties in climate modeling to launch Western civilization down a path to self-destruction.

    I have now added this blog to my “favorites.” Again, thank you!

  124. Someone’s probably already pointed this out, but Will Briggs’ criticism applies equally to the scientists he says are “right”, who rely on exactly the same “estimated” data of Phil Plait (global surface temperature anomaly data).

    Ten-year and (usually) 15-year trends from surface temperature data are not statistically significant – the noise swamps the signal – whereas the trend from 1973 most definitely passes statistical significance tests. Phil Plait 1. WSJ scientists 0.

    The middle section of this article about estimates and predictions is just loopy, but I’m sure that’s been pointed out, too. This article is plutonium-grade nonsense. The WSJ article isn’t much better.

  125. Your prose is reminiscent of lawyer ramblings. It reads as though you’re magician presenting an act of illusion to distort the underlying mechanism.

  126. In your post you stated, “He never did say what a “denialist” was…”. The working definition most often used comes from here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php

  127. Maurizio said “Paul D – Can’t you read – I said the escalator has nothing to do with Briggs’ point. It’s the silly bit showing the negative trends allegedly seen only by skeptics.”

    No need to be abusive. I suggest you read my comments.
    The Author of the animation (the graph shown here is a small part of the bigger ‘product’) was making a specific point by including the real myths presented by skeptics. Since you believe they don’t do this (cherry pick data and show it has cooled over a short period), can you show evidence that when you have found a skeptic saying/writing that it has cooled over a short period, that you have told that skeptic that they are wrong and that they shouldn’t promote such misinformation?

    The animation makes a powerful statement that is intended to educate a simple point, no matter what level of education.

  128. Dana has posted a new article at Skeptical Science:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/still-going-down-the-up-escalator.html

    Quote from Dana:
    “We originally created the graphic in response to the specific myth that the BEST data showed that global warming had stopped.”

    The new graphic is based on NOAA data.

  129. Paul D – “Since you believe they don’t do this” – You’re moving goalposts, and I’ve never said anything of the sort.

    The issue was and is the use of the graph as presented by Plait. The fact that the graph had another use with the original author doesn’t mean it cannot be used in other ways. And in fact, that’s what Plait did.

  130. Also, when citing Skeptical Science, one must remember the site is not only heavily censored to remove (non-abusive) comments simply for being inconvenient to the author’s arguments, and the author has been caught in some very dishonest editing. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

    http://nigguraths.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/skepticalscience-rewriting-history/

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/9/21/the-cook-timeline.html

  131. I find it amusing that many of the comments haggle over what is, or is not, a ‘scientist’. One side staking out the Argument To Authority of a Ph.D. in a field defined as a science (by whom?) while the other stakes out the Argument to Ability of an Engineer (note, the capital letter, so you know my bias…) as granting a mantle of “science” (as though knowing math and needing to avoid error makes a scientist). Yet none are mentioning The Scientific Method.

    I would assert the Argument Of Definition: One who follows the Scientific Method is a scientist, no matter what their degree, or lack their of, and no matter what their math skill. (One can do science in some areas that do not require math… watch an apple fall and you might postulate the law of gravity, then find it universal, then later the math and formulas can be applied…)

    FWIW, my contribution to this particular bit of Angels and Pins is that by the “Must have Ph.D” definition, Newton would not be a scientist. Can we agree that Newton WAS a scientist? If so, then one need not have a Ph.D. to be a scientist…

    http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/whos_who_level2/newton.html

    Isaac Newton was born in 1643 in Woolsthorpe, England. His father was a wealthy, uneducated farmer who died three months before Newton was born. Newton’s mother remarried and he was left in the care of his grandmother. He attended Free Grammar school. Though Newton did not excel in school, he did earn the opportunity to attend Trinity College Cambridge where he wanted to study law. His mother refused to pay for his education so while at college he worked as a servant to pay his way. Newton also kept a journal where he was able to express his ideas on various topics. He became interested in mathematics after buying a book at a fair and not understanding the math concepts it contained. Newton graduated with a bachelors degree in 1665. The further pursuit of an education was interrupted by the plague. Trinity College was closed due to the highly contagious, deadly disease. Newton went home. It was during this time that Newton started to pursue his own ideas on math, physics, optics and astronomy. By 1666 he had completed his early work on his three laws of motion. The university reopened and Newton took a fellowship in order to obtain his masters degree.

    As the years progressed, Newton completed his work on universal gravitation, diffraction of light, centrifugal force, centripetal force, inverse-square law, bodies in motion and the variations in tides due to gravity. His impressive body of work made him a leader in scientific research. However, in 1679 his work came to standstill after he suffered a nervous breakdown. Upon regaining his health Newton returned to the university. He became a leader against what he saw as an attack on the university by King James II. The king wanted only Roman Catholics to be in positions of power in government and academia. Newton spoke out against the king. When William of Orange drove James out of England, Newton was elected to Parliament. While in London he became more enchanted with the life of politics than the life of research.

    Note the presence of a Masters, not a Ph.D.

    But he was good at math… inventing calculus and all… and he created gadgets, like the Newton Thermometer, so ought we to call him an Engineer instead?

    As the two guys shouted at each other from their balconies on opposite sides of the ally, the elder Old Geezer exclaimed:

    “Sir, I fear we shall never agree, for we argue from different premises.”

    IMHO, a “Scientist” is any person who applies the scientific method. BY DEFINITION.

    And by virtue of that, and of how aircraft designs are made and tested (using the gathering of data, the formation of a hypothesis [ it will fly... with these behaviours] and the TESTING of that hypothesis [ rather more rigorously than in most fields ] and iteration if that test fails to confirm the hypothesis) there is no doubt what so ever that Burt Rutan is a scietist.

    That he is one who specializes in the Engineering and Design of aircraft doesn’t change that.

    I also not in passing that the indulgence in a prolonged ‘Angels and Pins’ argument has attracted far more attention that the point that averaging temperatures is simply unsupportable from a philosophy of science point of view.

    Why let a substantive point (that averaging intrinsic properties erases their meaning) interfere with counting angels and measuring pins….

    So, “carry on”….

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