Are You A Real Scientist? Find Out Now!

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RealScientistFlow

This chart is my social commentary on the strange attack on Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s new SuperFreakonomicsbook. It seems a large chunk of people are worked up over a chapter in the book in which they look into alternate, controversial ways of solving the climate-change/global-warming/whatever-the-kids-are-calling-it-these-days problem.

At the eye of the storm are people accusing Dubner and Levitt of lies and misrepresentation in their book, particularly as it relates to their conversations with Ken Caldeira, a respected climate scientist working with Intellectual Ventures (possibly the most arrogantly named company ever).

Long story short: A blogger at Climate Progress claimed that Caldeira objected to his portrayal in the book and that Dubner and Levitt essentially flipped him off and left burning dog crap on his porch. Dubner responded that Caldeira read through two drafts of the chapter, correcting things he felt were wrong. Caldeira feels the authors worked in good faith and, while he may or may not agree with their conclusions, he feels their portrayal was fair.

What I find funny about the whole thing is the extent to which most people are blasting Dubner and Levitt even though they have explained repeatedly that they are not challenging the scientific status quo concerning climate change, that their reference to global cooling is a reference to finding ways to use technology to reverse global warming, which they unabashedly believe is happening. Their chapter looks at people working to solve the problem (you know, the problem of global warming which they believe is happening) who are working outside the “climate-change establishment”.

On a related note, Dubner has announced that he will change his name to Stephen Dubner-Yes-I-Believe-Climate-Change-Is-A-Problem.

But for the blasting of Dubner and Levitt and the (unconvincing, in my opinion) Brad DeLong’s “you should have let me write your book” post, no one can really give me a good reason to believe that they have a better grasp on the topic than Dubner and Levitt.

(Update: Greg Mankiw gives me reason to believe that Yoram Bauman has a better grasp on the topic and he seems disappointed. However, his back and forth with Steve Levitt amounted to “You may be technically right on the specifics, but the gist you gave was inaccurate.” I’m still struggling to try and reconcile that with the statements attributed to Ken Caldeira who, you may recall, previewed multiple drafts of the chapter. If he really did OK the overall scientific gist of the chapter, that strikes me as a pretty powerful authority.)

Up till now, I’ve stayed out of the climate change arena because I don’t have anything resembling an appropriate background for dealing with the topic. But the problem I’ve found is that people on both sides of the argument don’t really give a crap about credentials or scientific rigor.

What they care about is simply “Did this guy end up on my side of the argument?” If he did, he is a real honest to goodness scientist. If he didn’t, he is a hack, a washed up old know-nothing, a dishonest tool for religious environmentalism or a shill for the oil companies (depending on which side you’re on).

The reason I’m skewering the pro-climate-change side in this visual is because they seem to be much narrower in their orthodoxy. I’ve known extremely liberal people with graduate degrees in nuclear physics who get angry because no one wants to hear their solution to climate change (hint: it rhymes with buclear flower pants) due to the fact that the movement (from a political stand point) is dominated by long time environmentalists who spent their formative years fighting against nuclear power and don’t want to admit that they might have gotten that one wrong. (How is that for a run-on sentence?)

The “climate skeptics” side is often just as scientifically lackadaisical, but they’ll welcome anyone with open arms as long as they’re even remotely skeptical of any part of the political climate change agenda. They’ll accept anything including “climate change isn’t happening”, “man isn’t causing climate change”, “climate change isn’t a problem”, or (my favorite) “the solution isn’t (Kyoto/carbon tax/ethanol/hybrid car/whatever-my-political-enemies-like), the real solution is (fill-in-the-blanks-with-something-that-will-make-my-political-enemies-angry)”.

But, ultimately, I find the pro side to be more humorous because it is populated by approximately 30 actual scientists with knowledge in the field and millions of people with no scientific knowledge in the field who just like to feel smug about being all “scientific” while bashing other people who aren’t “scientific”.

And how do they determine who falls into which category? See the chart above.

40 comments

  1. Erika says:

    That chart is cynical but hilarious. =)

  2. Ryan says:

    I didn’t make the cut. You should revise the visual so reading xkcd counts for something…

  3. spork says:

    Did you really mean to say “do you disagree with Al Gore about anything?” -> No == “you are a real scientist”?

  4. KB says:

    I think the world is heating up from all the talk about climate change. On the other hand I could use some ice – any new glaciers falling apart?

  5. Planet Moron says:

    Excellent chart, and piece.

    As I have come to see it, the two sides of this argument, as presented in the public sphere, are not “AGW exists” on the one hand and “AGW doesn’t exist,” on the other, it’s “there is no argument AGW exists” and “there is an argument AGW exists.”

    It’s kind of silly for one side to argue that there is no argument with the people they are arguing with, which is why they tend to be so hysterical in their defense of AGW and why it has been a rich, and never-ending source of material for me.

    At the end of the day, I think the side that argues there is no argument has created a hurdle they can never clear.

  6. greenfyre says:

    “that they are not challenging the scientific status quo concerning climate change”

    Right, and no doubt some of their best friends are gay/black/muslim/other … and in case the sarcasm isn’t obvious I’ll state clearly that:

    i) no one accused them of denying climate change, they merely documented at length and in detail the numerous glaring errors, false claims, and outright fabrications in the work;

    ii) “not challenging” means nothing when you then indulge in all of things noted in i) cf ‘some of my best friends …’

    iii)”not challenging” is a totally disingenuous claim to avoid taking responsibility for the things mentioned in i) as discussed in “Superfreakonomic-expialidocious “I did not deny climate change with that woman!” ” http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/superfreakonomic-expialidocious-i-did-not-deny-climate-change-with-that-woman/
    They should either refute the criticisms with credible science or acknowledge their many egregious errors.

    And while your chart is humerous, how about instead of “don’t really give a crap about credentials or scientific rigor.” you deal with the fact that what we understand about climate change is based on tens of thousands of scientific studies
    http://www.eecg.utoronto.ca/~prall/climate/climate_authors_table_by_clim.html
    and it is the scientists accusing Superfreaks of flagrant idiocy who refer to that science, while it is the Superfreaks who rely on hearsay from such noted industry shills as Happer.

    The critiques of the Superfreaks are science based and well referenced as such, so please do not pretend otherwise.

    Thank you

    PS of course scientists don’t give a crap about credentials, that would be an appeal to authority fallacy. In science, if you have facts then say what they are. If you don’t, then who gives a crap what your credentials are?

    • politicalmath says:

      Just so you know… you claim that scientists don’t care about credentials, but then you point to the IPCC’s sources page. Which is all about citing the authority of leading scientists. Then you call one scientist an “industry shill”.

      But that betrays the fact that you DO care about credentials, as do other scientists. Otherwise there wouldn’t be such a thing as an “industry shill” because that implies that the validity of the science is dependent on who sponsors it. Needless to say that you don’t even begin to live up to your ideal of objective science.

      As for “facts as they are”, that’s a load of bulls*** and I suspect you know it. Steve McIntyre has been trying to get various papers published for years in scientific journals, but he has been largely blackballed because he is well known for gathering evidence that is critical of the data collection methods and mathematical models involved in several prominent climate science papers. If you’re familiar with mathematical modeling, you’ll know that his work tends to be fairly rigorous (he’s a math and stats geek if ever there was one).

      Furthermore, in order to gain recognition in what I’m going to call “establishment science”, you need to work through an established journal (as I’m sure you know). And anyone who has worked in academic science also knows that journals are not as objective as we might like them to be.

      This is not to say anything about climate change itself. Near as I can tell from the studies I’ve read, it is happening. But its popular proponents spout a combination of real science, pseudo science and completely unscientific facile arguments that can be hard to differentiate… especially to the untrained observer.

      The fact of the matter is that science is wholly unconcerned with “right” and “wrong”, it is merely concerned with what is. When you see anyone claim that climate change is “bad”, you’re probably dealing with someone who is putting forth an unscientific argument. I suspect that, if the earth continues to warm, there will be good sides to that and bad sides to that. And if the earth suddenly cools, that will have benefits and drawbacks. Climate change simply tells us something will be different… it doesn’t tell us at all how the human race will respond to the difference.

      Think for a moment. If you cannot come up with one positive benefit to the earth warming due to human causes, you’re probably so far into the morality of climate change that you can’t see the science very well.

      • greenfyre says:

        “Which is all about citing the authority of leading scientists. ”

        No, it’s about actually reading the report which is based on peer reviewed science.

        “Otherwise there wouldn’t… because that implies that the validity of the science is dependent on who sponsors it.”

        Not in the least … show me anything Happer has said about climate that is rational and based on peer reviewed science … then ask why he blithers the idiotic nonsense that he does.

        “. Steve McIntyre has been”

        He has not been “blackballed”; science journals try to publish science, not drivel. His work is well known to largely fall in the latter catagory.

        As for being a math geek, GIGO …
        [and right, 6,500 scientific journals are conspiring to blackball McIntyre. They meet Thursdays, potluck /s]

        “I suspect that, if the earth continues to warm, there will be good sides to that and bad sides to that. ”

        You are simply badly misinformed, extremely so in fact. Your “suspicions” have zip to do with reality. Try READING the IPCC report, and here is a basic introduction:
        An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water
        http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/22/an-introduction-to-global-warming-impacts-hell-and-high-water/

        “one positive benefit to the earth warming due to human causes, you’re probably so”

        ‘well informed’ is the phrase you are struggling for. “Positive” is subjective of course, but unless you are misanthropic to the point of genocidal there is nothing positive about it. How about you suggest something that you imagine is positive and we can look at that.

        Overall comment, all you have here is speculation and suspicion … if you care, get facts. If you don’t care, please don’t bother venturing uninformed opinion.

        Thank you

      • greenfyre says:

        PS

        i) I note that you did not refer to any of the points I made in my first comment … am I to understand that you accept them as read as refutations of what you say in the article?

        ii) You are clearly falling into the trap of the false middle fallacy ie the belief that given two arguments the ‘truth’ falls somewhere in the middle. It is precisely the confusion that the Deniers wish to create and easily demonstrated to be false as follows, given:

        Argument 1) 2+2 = 2
        Argument 2) 2+2 = 4

        The false middle tells you the correct answer is 3, obviously false.

        The “correct answer” is the one based on facts, not suspicions, speculations, or the false middle.

        Thank you

  7. politicalmath says:

    greenfyre,

    Sadly, you’re not looking for a conversation, you’re a true believer. I’m sorry for that. People like you are probably the worst people when it comes to determining appropriate policy and reasonable science. (There are true believers on the other side of things as well and the same goes for them, so I’m not just picking on you.)

    I’ll leave your hilarious ranting up for all to see.

    • greenfyre says:

      So saying a scientific discussion should be fact based is “hilarious ranting”?

      Pointing out that you offer no facts, just uninformed opinion makes me “a true believer”?

      I made specific points all of which you failed to address, so you try to dismiss it all with this red herring? At least you are consistent, trying to cover your other logical fallacies with yet another.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule

      • politicalmath says:

        Let’s address one of your “specific points” and then I’ll be at the end of this. I make it a point to ignore those who don’t want to discuss, which is why you will soon be ignored.

        Vis-a-vis your “appeal to ridicule”… that is a rich accusation. Allow me to collect all of your evidence against Steven McIntyre.

        • his work is drivel
        • his work is garbage
        • then you make fun of the idea that he can’t get his work published without addressing the core issue with your “potluck” comment.

        You offer no proof of these accusations, you simply toss them out there. If a professor were to take those comments and put them on a test of informal fallacies, they would fall into either the “appeal to ridicule” fallacy or the “ad hominim” fallacy. Possibly both.

        So, nice talking to you, but I’m done now. In your short time here, you’ve proven to be abrasive and arrogant. I don’t mind arrogance so much from people who can prove that they are smart. You’ve not convinced me.

  8. Love your blog. Keep up the good work! You appear to have a nice sharp pin for popping hot air balloons. Maybe you could start manufacturing them and offering them for sale to the less sharp-witted among us.

    • greenfyre says:

      Apologies, that link does not seem to have taken. This one works http://tinyurl.com/yljs38k , and as long as I am back I will throw in this as well … in case you run out http://tinyurl.com/yz7zwbd

    • politicalmath says:

      Unfortunately for you, McIntyre and McKitrick published their data in full as well as the process to replicate their findings. I’ve run the replication and found it to be, well, pretty much as they’ve said. I’ve found Michael Mann’s response (to which you linked) to be far from satisfactory.

      It is also interesting that you bash McIntyre for being a hack when it was Mann who refused to share his data while McIntyre published his results for the world to see.

      In my mind, that puts McIntyre way ahead of the scientific game. Willingness to release your data and willingness to reconstruct your process is pivotal to good science. You quote the one who didn’t do it. I quote the one who did.

      Also take note that McIntyre points freely to Mann’s work and blogs so that you can easily find Mann’s defense of his own work. Mann blasts McIntyre and links to none of McIntyre’s work. In his defense, Mann freely quotes 1) himself and 2) hack organizations specifically set up to discredit those who disagree. You quote the one who is acting in a petulant unprofessional manner. I’m quoting the one who is acting professionally.

  9. politicalmath says:

    If the hockey stick doesn’t matter, why did you bring it up? I referenced McIntyre generally; I’ve read many of his pieces and he’s pretty well versed in statistical methodology and the importance of proper data collection. You’re the one who brought up the hockey stick.

    See… a reasonable person would say this to Mann’s arrogance:

    “Yes, he should have linked to McIntyre’s work. It is important for reasonable people to know exactly what the other side is saying. Mann was in the wrong.”

    But you can’t do that. You can’t admit a tiny sliver of what McIntyre has done is correct.

    As for your “verify your claims” silliness, I assumed that you had read Mann’s article and followed his links. Mann linked to a site called “Exxon Secrets” run by Greenpeace. Their stated purpose is to discredit anyone who disagrees with them.

    You’ve made it fully transparent that there is no discussion to be had with you. I dislike being an ass, but you are a hack and a religionist. You will accept no dissent from what you believe to be true and you will budge not an inch from your orthodoxy. Perhaps you have time to burn preaching your religion on the internet, but I’ve real work to do.

    • greenfyre says:

      Why did I bring it up? try reading what I wrote? Are you really reduced to desperately trying to take things out of context as yet another falacious argument?

      “As for your “verify your claims” ” As if this were private correspondence? hardly. Read back through your own comments; you consistently practice what you pretend outrages you in others.

      “Mann linked to a site called “Exxon Secrets” run by Greenpeace”
      i) Yes, merely as background, NOT as an argument. Again you take something out of context in attempt to imply that it says something it doesn’t. Please spare us the Red Herrings.
      ii) cite source for your claim about the Greenpeace site;
      iii) is there anything on the site that is factually incorrect? cite credible sources;
      iv) as per i) through iii) another Straw Man and red Herring
      v) So what is your opinion of McIntyre’s sidekick McKitrick using an ad hominem (ie he provides no evidence, his funding claim is all he offers) in a pathetic attempt to rebut Romm http://newsfeedresearcher.com/data/articles_t44/book-dubner-levitt.html [notice I provide a reference? it’s not so hard]

      “there is no discussion to be had with you.” Because I read what you say and hold you to it? because I give sources and citations? why exactly?

      Or do you imagine your name calling is some sort of substitute for actually making a point? and supposedly I am the rude abrasive one? curious.

  10. […] are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." – Mark Twain Click Here for More Broken News Just a reminder, Global Warming™ is not science, it is a religion. Blaspheme at your own risk. Hugo-Bama. You know who else hates Fox News? Hugo Chavez (video). xkcd has redone its site to […]

  11. […] Take Are You A Real Scientist? Find Out Now! for example; amusing enough in it’s way, with the humourous flow chart and all, but it’s the usual climate change Denier fraud of pretending that the few dozen industry shills and cranks who propagate blatant frauds are somehow “real scientists”, whereas the millions who actually do climate research and/or base their conclusions on actual science are merely Al Gore puppets. For all I know this site may even be a generally intelligent one (I barely skimmed the other posts to ensure it was not a typical Denier site), but on the climate issue as seen in Superfreakonomics it is pure mis-informed Denierism. […]

    • Simon says:

      Good lord man.

      The chart is meant as a joke (albeit a true one) and was meant to be taken humorously. It reflects the “Denier’s” (or whatever you want to call it) view that a bunch of clowns who can’t tell me what the weather will be like three days from now with any certainty, will in the same breath tell me that the entire planet will catch on fire and we’ll all die from mass starvation if we don’t all buy a Prius and live in a cave.

      I can’t wait to see what the next big thing will be after global warming then climate change… global cooling? No… that happened in the 70s. “curious.”

  12. […] Posted by KingShamus on October 29, 2009 Just follow this handy-dandy flow chart drawn up by the dude over at Political Math. […]

  13. […] I confess, I'm not the expert here but this made me smile: source:Are You A Real Scientist? Find Out Now! Political Math […]

  14. KingShamus says:

    Greenfyre needs to remove the stick from his rectal cavity ASAFP.

    Also, is there another slur for a global warming skeptic besides ‘denier’? I’m pretty sure they still make thesauruses in book and online forms.

  15. ElrohirFindicano says:

    Actually, Mr. greenfyre. I for one just like reading what you type when you get all irritated about something that can be neither proven nor dis-proven. Especially when you do your little “so asking for accuracy and facts…” speal. Talk about humor. I especially enjoyed it when you said “Mann actually fails to name names or to provide proper references to that would allow one to examine McIntyre’s work? How shockingly unprofessional … if it were relevant”… so, if I’m understanding this correctly (and I’m SURE I’m not, and equally so that you’ll tell me exactly how.) one is ONLY required to cite references when it is against something you believe with all your heart? Anything supporting what you believe will be taken at face value and any missing references will be forgiven in the name of the “we know his heart is in the right place” argument.

    • greenfyre says:

      ElrohirFindicano … try to pay attention please. Mann correctly cites everyone that he should have for the work that he did.

      It is politicalmath who makes the baseless (and false) claim that Mann should have paid homage to McIntyre with a citation when in fact it was neither needed nor appropriate.

      Had you simply followed the links and read the works you would have known this. In future please spare me your speculation and innuendo.

      If you care, get facts to support your case.

      If you don’t care, don’t bother.

  16. greenfyre says:

    @ Simon

    You’re telling me that a bunch of clowns

    No, I am telling you that it is scientists with facts. Here is a list of the 2907 most frequently cited authors of climate research with links to their work (10s of thousands of papers)
    http://www.eecg.utoronto.ca/~prall/climate/climate_authors_table_by_clim.html
    If you have anything relevant to say about it, accompanied by citation of credible sources, please do, but spare me any moreof the empty verbiage and dreary “just so” stories.

  17. Simon says:

    Well Greenfyre I’m certainly impressed with the amount of information and knowledge that you’ve collected over time. You definitely have devoted a considerable amount of your time to studying the matter in order to back your position. For that you have my respect.

    That said, I still can’t quite wrap my brain around the relatively amateurish disregard that people take when studying this field in the sense that they feel that if one unknown fits, the others be damned, the equation is complete. Like I said, there are many known and unknown forces and phenomena that continually fluctuate in and around the planet that contribute to climate change. Carbon emission isn’t the only one.

    And though we contribute to it, we contribute a small minority (4%).
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11638
    An unspoken part of my argument is that the earth isn’t so fragile that it can’t handle it. It’s not an egg resting on the edge of a razor. We haven’t seen apocalyptic results because of this.

    In fact, I dare say that where ever there has been a negative action there has been a positive reaction elsewhere as in warming of the North Pole with simultaneous cooling of the South Pole.
    (link with links with more links)
    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=f1f2f75f-802a-23ad-4701-a92b4ebbccbf

    The last link is an illustration of why I believe that climate science cannot be quantified and qualified so easily. People like to think they can tuck it in a nice package and put a bow on it but that is just not the case. I’m sure you can find a study that says the opposite thing like about how the Wilkins Ice Sheet broke off or how the continent’s major peninsula has been shrinking ignoring the trend of cooling over a vast majority of the continent. What could possibly explain realistically explain warming in the north and cooling in the south with any degree of certainty? I think there are way too many variables and unknowns.

    With that said, I’ll finish up with my “empty verbiage and dreary “just so” stories.”

    Good luck

  18. greenfyre says:

    @ Simon

    Speaking of “amateurish disregard that people take when studying this field”, apparently you don’t even read the material you cite. You linked “Climate myths: Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter “, now try reading it; it actually points out that your point is total nonsense.

    As for the ridiculous post by Inhofe, 2 min research would have exposed what idiocy that is
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice.htm
    just like the rest of his site
    http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/denier-vs-skeptic/denier-myths-debunked/not-sparta-inhofe-and-the-400/

    As I keep saying, if you can’t be bothered to take 5 min to get your facts right, pls don’t waste my time with your comment.

  19. I am amused that Greenfyre returns, not the slightest bit contrite about the potlucks happening by email against McIntyre et al. — a joke of his early on — that were revealed in the ClimateGate emails just days after his argument here.

    A lay person who is a seeker after knowledge can observe a curious effect in the reaction to that and other debacles: When obvious fraud is revealed, people concerned with integrity would root out the fraud in their midst and denounce it. People concerned with … something other than integrity, at any rate … would whitewash the fraud and attempt to bury it in rhetoric and procedure, no matter how transparent or lame such attempts are.

    The catastrophists have shown their dramatic lack of concern for integrity in this area, and even one unfamiliar with the science could reasonably conclude that the science—from data sources to methodologies and choices of analysis techniques—thus needs to be independently vetted before we make consequential decisions based upon it.

    Our host’s chart here is too close to the truth. It shouldn’t be, but there it is.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  20. […] was brought home to me by a recent post at the brilliant blog http://www.politicalmathblog.com. The author […]

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