Some new rules?

This is really just a post to say that I’m clearly going to have to introduce some new rules with regards to comments. There are a couple of recent comments threads that I’ve moderated badly and that have ended up completely off topic and in which the discussion has been far from constructive. I haven’t quite decided on precisely what I should do. I also think I may take a few days to think a bit more about what I hope to achieve with this blog. It really wasn’t intended to be anything other than a place for me to simply express my thoughts with regards to climate science. It has attracted more attention than I had anticipated.

I’m not precisely quite sure what new rules I will introduce, but there are a few things I’m not really interested in. I’m not interested in lengthy discussions about whether or not climate scientists can be trusted. It seems that there are certain people who think climate scientists can do nothing right. They’re the reason people don’t trust scientists – if only climate scientists hadn’t behaved so badly, we’d have more faith in the science. It’s their fault that there isn’t better engagement between scientists and skeptics – if only they’d be more open to other ideas. They over-react when getting unpleasant emails and, technically, they weren’t actually death threats (although some clearly were). They didn’t release their data fast enough. The lack of understanding and the inability to interpret things charitably is mind-boggling.

Essentially, I don’t care. I think these are absurd characterisations that have virtually no relevance to the actual science itself. Yes, I know that some people think that there is a standard of behaviour and that character has relevance, but it doesn’t really. There’s just science and if you think the way to judge it is through the behaviour of the scientists (especially if you’re basing this on private emails between a small number of scientists, most of which appear to have been taken out of context), then presumably that implies you don’t understand the actual science well enough to judge it on its own merits.

The other issue is the science itself. I wrote a post a while ago about how frustrating it must be for actual climate scientists to engage in discussions with people who won’t even accept aspects that are clearly well understand. I then underwent exactly such an exchange. So, I’m no longer interested in discussions about aspects that are largely indisputable. The rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic. There is virtually no doubt. Our current overall warming is also anthropogenic. Again, there is virtually no doubt. Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick has not been debunked, despite what people might say (McIntyre & McKitrick 2005 has numerous easily explained issues). Exactly where to draw the line with respect to the science is trickier, as there aspects that are uncertain and I certainly don’t even want to prevent discussion about those aspects that are certain. I just don’t want comment threads diverted into lengthy exchanges about something that is largely undisputed.

As I said, I haven’t quite decided precisely what I should do. You can expect a slightly harder line and a bit more snipping of comments. I’m going to expect more evidence from commenters if they wish to discuss more controversial aspects of the debate. I’m also going to explicitly acknowledge a bias. I’ve been doing this long enough to have a good idea of who understands the science and is able to make constructive comments, and who doesn’t. I also understand the science quite well. It is much more settled than many would like us to think. So if you’re going to take the standard “skeptical” line, expect me to be harder on you than on others. You might think that lacks balance. I disagree. Being allowed to present scientific ideas for which you have no real evidence is not balance.

Maybe some will see this as a move towards this being a blog for those who agree with each other, and noone else. That’s not the intent. The intent is to simply stop allowing comment threads to be diverted into territory that isn’t relevant. If you think you can make a constructive comment, please do so. If you think you can present a valid scientific argument, please do so. If you don’t understand something, feel free to ask a question. I may not be able to answer, but there are others here who can. If you think I’m going too far with this, also let me know. At the end of the day, though, this is my blog and I get to decide what I think is appropriate. As usual, relevant – and constructive – comments welcome.

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103 Responses to Some new rules?

  1. Rachel says:

    I think this is all very reasonable and a good idea to take a hard line. I was half following that marathon of comments about vile emails on the other thread but sometimes I did wonder whether I was being emailed the same comment twice as the discussion was going around in circles. Good idea to shut the comments off.

  2. Part the issue was that I was quite busy today, so missed most of it and didn’t really get a chance to go back through them and see what was happening. That’s one flaw in my moderation policy. What do I do if I’m not actually checking at the time? 🙂

  3. Rachel says:

    It would be good if people could play nicely without supervision 🙂

    Maybe you need to recruit some moderators.

  4. I’m not interested in lengthy discussions about whether or not climate scientists can be trusted. It seems that there are certain people who think climate scientists can do nothing right.

    If scientific progress depended on all scientists being angels, there would be no scientific progress. Simply writing up your findings clearly is the main things that keep science going and that makes sure that mistakes are eventually found. The larger the community working on something and thus the more interesting problem are, the faster the mistakes are found.

    So, I’m no longer interested in discussions about aspects that are largely indisputable.

    I thought most of your posts are about that. With that line, you would not be able to discus most posts at WUWT any more. 🙂

    Maybe it is sufficient to watch a bit more that the comments are on topic. For this post that would include comments on the moral character of scientists, but for most posts that would restrict the comments to science.

  5. I did consider that, but given that virtually noone knows who I am (and my family won’t help:-)) I’m somewhat stymied.

  6. I did realise that this post created a possible problem in that discussions about the moral character of scientists would be on-topic. Of course, they would fail on the “constructive” and “requiring evidence” criteria.

  7. All of the above seems fair enough to me. Can I just float a thought Ive been toying with. Contrarians object to the use of the D word but use the word ‘alarmism’ to describe stuff that isnt skeptical enough for them . And anyone putting forward alarmism is an alarmist. But the threshold for this alarm is fiercely disputed, as is the action we should take. An alarm by its nature isn’t something you dispute the need for and course of action to take on all fronts at the same moment. Besides calling people alarmist is tribal. Ive been called alarmist in the comments of other blogs, but I think it falls into the same category of name calling as denier.
    Ok its a rhetorical point, and this should be science on this blog, but I do feel that rhetoric is getting in the way of science communication sometimes.

  8. John Mashey says:

    As the court ruled a while back in the US, the EPA us not required to reprove the existence of atoms.

    In some other blogs, there have been hundreds of comments arguing over CO2-temp relationship, mostly going around in circles, like whirlpools in the ocean. The simplest thing is just to point to the SkS fixed-num list, give the argument #s. Anything found there really isn’t very interesting to argue about, but that leaves lots of interesting questions.

  9. Yes, and refuse to allow follow up comments that go “yes, but maybe”.

  10. Rachel says:

    I think wordpress lets you add users with different roles and so they would not need to know who you are. I imagine – but will check it out first – that you can add a moderator who can then log in through their own account. In my wordpress for instance there are four user types: author, contributor, editor and administrator. I’ll see what powers the four types have and get back to you.

  11. Rhetoric is indeed getting in the way of decent communication. I hadn’t thought of discouraging the use of a term like “alarmist”. What I suspect I should do is insist that it is only used to refer to something that is actually alarmist (we’re all going to die), rather than referring to a discussion about the science for which there is ample evidence. I am rather tired of people equating “alarmism” with accepting the well-established scientific evidence.

  12. Rachel says:

    There is a moderator plugin but these are not available for wordpress.com hosted blogs. Not that I can see anyway. Perhaps someone else knows for sure?

    The four user roles currently available are described here – http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-roles/
    Definitely do not ever create another administrator! They can delete your blog. The only other one that can moderate comments as far as I can tell is the Editor and this role has quite a bit of power so it may not actually be that appropriate. They can also delete posts and pages.

  13. > “Yes, but maybe.”

    I might steal that one.

    ***

    With some discipline, you could recognize lines of arguments by their memes and refer the recycler to the resources you find appropriate. After a while, you can make a list of such resources and make that a permanent page. This list is quite good:

    – Climate scientists can’t be trusted;
    – Climate scientists can’t do nothing right;
    – Climate scientists have behaved so badly we have more faith in the science;
    – Climate scientists do not engage with skeptics;
    – Climate scientists do not engage with skeptics well enough;
    – Climate scientists over-react when getting unpleasant emails;
    – Climate scientists are uncharitable.

    Et cetera.

    ***

    The main formula is “Climate scientists are X”, which then can be reduced to:

    > Yes, but climate scientists.

    But it’s nice to have a list. It shows to the newbies that these memes are promoted. This promotion belongs to political warfare.

    ***

    As for suggesting ground rules, please do as you please.
    This is your show.

  14. Maybe you can ask AW how he does it. He also has a wordpress hosted blog with multiple moderators.

  15. Rachel says:

    AW’s blog is not hosted at wordpress.com. He has his own domain and so he can use the plugin.

  16. WUWT is hosted by WordPress, it just has another URL. Does that make a difference? It is not self-hosted for fear of hackers and administrative work.

    AW complained regularly that being hosted by WordPress, he did not have all plug-ins. Recently he started paying WordPress a monthly fee to get such upgrades and asked his disciples to fund that.

  17. Rachel says:

    Oh right. Well he might be. I thought he had a wordpress blog on a different host. I’ll have another look at the plugins.

  18. I think AW is hosted by wordpress but is paying to have his own domain (or whatever the correct term is) so probably has access to resources that I don’t have – given that I’m doing this on the cheap.

  19. Feel free to steal it. Am pleased you think it might be worthy 🙂

  20. On Blogger using another domain name is free, as far as I know.

    You do have to pay a registrar for the domain name, naturally, about 15 Euro a year.

  21. I keep getting prompts saying “be the master of your own domain for only $18 a year”. Never quite saw the need to do that, but maybe it would be worth considering.

  22. BBD says:

    “Yes, but maybe.”

    It does sum it up very succinctly.

    🙂

    What you say in the main post seems eminently reasonable, and as Willard is correct to emphasise, it’s your space.

  23. BBD says:

    Sounds like a bargain to me. How much do they charge for realms?

  24. John Mashey says:

    By the way, if someone wants to see an example of neverending-whirlpool, try Bart vs Ferdinand Englebeen.

    Note, for the science arguments, if you cite the SkS #s,, use: href=”http://www.skepticalscience.com/fixednum.php

    as the main page numbers change dynamically, useful for current lookups, but awkward for longer-lived documents. John Cook was kind enough to crate that version for me in 2010. Indeed, a similar catalog of standard “scientists are bad, because …” memes would be useful. It’s very helpful to have short descriptors for use in Tweets, letters to editor, etc.

  25. Brad Keyes says:

    ” And anyone putting forward alarmism is an alarmist. But the threshold for this alarm is fiercely disputed, as is the action we should take.”

    So you agree—you are alarmed. And presumably you want to raise the alarm. So that others will be alarmed. So that they then can take action. All perfectly rational—which is why I don’t hear anything derogatory in the word “alarmist.” It’s purely descriptive, the way I say it. Putting myself in your shoes as much as humanly possible, I think I’d rather own the word “alarmist” than pretend it doesn’t apply.

    This is not to rule out the possibility or probability that others use “alarmist” to pejorate—but I don’t. And if you “owned” it, surely it would disempower those who misuse it in that way.

    In case you’re wondering, yes, I feel exactly the same about “denier.” Provided you’re willing to say what I deny—without infantilising me as a “climate”, “climate change,” “climate science” or “science” denier—feel free to use that term. It may have been introduced maliciously, in an allusion to the Holocaust, but it doesn’t have to be used maliciously forever. I think we “deniers” made a mistake by not “getting over it” as Richard Lindzen (a Holocaust descendant) has done.

  26. When I started reading those comments I was a little confused. It took me a while to work out that Bart is not Bart Verheggen 🙂

  27. Steve Bloom says:

    As Ray Pierrehumbert says, alarm is an entirely appropriate response to the science. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest to be called an alarmist, although of course that’s most commonly used as code for being more alarmed than the evidence supports. But it remains that our collective house is rather on fire.

    As they are the most accurate descriptors, I continue to use denier and denialist (the latter for active promoters of denial). Interestingly very few of them seem to appreciate the appropriateness of those labels. 🙂 At the same time, before applying them to an individual I take care to be clear that at least one fundamental aspect of the science is being denied. Short of that, I suppose contrarian is the correct term.

    Skeptic is very misleading except as applied to those who actually practice skepticism. IMO it’s being entirely too polite to deniers and denialists to grant them that point.

  28. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    .

  29. Doug Bostrom says:

    “It’s waste heat” is a favorite at Skeptical Science. The discussion there leads to a new kind of intelligent, prognosticating photon, somewhat akin to the kind favored by the “G&T 2nd Law Thermoinversionists” but not in correspondence.

    2nd Law Thermoinversionist photons know in advance when the temperature of an object in their path is higher and thus swerve to avoid the impending collision. In the case of Intelligent Waste Heat Photons, these can sense the impending danger of radiating from the top of the atmosphere and make suitable course changes so as to stay within the atmospheric envelope.

    Apparently these two species of photons do not communicate with one another but each lives in fear. One is frightened by warmth, the other by cold.

  30. Doug Bostrom says:

    To clarify: thermoinversionist photons “remember” the temperature of the object from which they were radiated and are “programmed” to avoid impinging on any warmer object. Note that is effect is no form of “entanglement,” rather is termed “enmanglement.”

  31. Doug Bostrom says:

    Yeah, “alarmist” is like “Obamacare” but without the death panels and allusions to early 20th century history, right Brad?

    “It may have been” means “I have no idea but it’s a great opportunity to suggest it.”

  32. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    .

  33. Brad Keyes says:

    “Yeah, “alarmist” is like “Obamacare” but without the death panels and allusions to early 20th century history, right Brad? ”

    Dunno. Not American.

    “It may have been” means “I have no idea but it’s a great opportunity to suggest it.”

    No it doesn’t. I meant “it was.”

    Try asking next time if you’re unclear on what I mean. You know, ‘to keep the discussion civil.’

  34. Bobby says:

    And where’s your proof that “it was”? Anecdotally, I never made the hypothesized malicious connection to history until I heard that on WUWT.

  35. Brad Keyes says:

    “Short of that, I suppose contrarian is the correct term.”

    “Contrarian” describes someone’s motive, not (just) their position, and should therefore be avoided unless you can demonstrate motive, which I’ve yet to see anyone on your “side” do.

    “Skeptic is very misleading except as applied to those who actually practice skepticism.”

    Agreed.

    “Skeptic” describes someone’s process, not their position, so we need a better term for those who don’t believe in dangerous AGW.

    “IMO it’s being entirely too polite to deniers and denialists to grant them that point.”

    IMO almost nobody practices skepticism, so what you say here is usually true.

    Mind you, in my observation almost everybody who does practice skepticism (which entails, among many other things, a contempt for the misuse of consensus as evidence) is a denier.

    I’m sure you’ll disagree with me, which reinforces the need for a better terminology.

  36. Brad Keyes says:

    “Anecdotally, I never made the hypothesized malicious connection to history”

    A lot of people probably didn’t. All the more reason we should have just gotten on with things and re-appropriated the word.

  37. Bobby says:

    So you don’t have proof, you’re just asserting that “it was.” Please stop with the assertions

  38. Doug Bostrom says:

    No proof.

    Anyway, I’m pretty much in agreement that”denier” is a poor choice of terms; “denier” is used to describe people on the wrong side of various realms of fact. Something more specific is indicated. As well, English is a rich language, capable of conveying all sorts of subtle connotations. Why impoverish ourselves by trying to use the same word to describe many different things?

    “Climate crank is better.

  39. Brad Keyes says:

    Ah, so you’re not interested in moving the discourse forward.

    Fair enough—my mistake.

  40. Doug Bostrom says:

    Sorry, that’s “climate crank.”

    Attributes of the archetypal crank are hauntingly familiar.

  41. Doug Bostrom says:

    Moving forward would require getting unstuck from your earlier unsupported claims regarding the word “denier,” Brad. You made the shoal, now get unstuck.

  42. Brad Keyes says:

    Sigh. I voluntarily stipulate that the term “denier” was only ever meant to suggest that people with my views were like Medieval French coins, worth 1/12 of a sou.

    Now can we move on? And by “move on”, I mean do something other than come up with what we wrongly imagine are devastatingly funny new insults for each other?

    Much appreciated, Doug.

  43. Doug Bostrom says:

    Thank -you-, Brad.

    Honestly, I’ve pretty much settled on “crank.” Exactly how much of this needs to be rejected to fall solidly into the crank domain is difficult to identify. The exact point on the continuum between “unhinged psychosis” and “uncritical acceptance” separating “crank” from “seriously eccentric but still tractable” isn’t crisply defined.

  44. Marco says:

    The only people who misuse the consensus are the pseudoskeptics/deniers/cranks/contrarians. Proper skeptics know that a scientific consensus is formed by a preponderance of evidence evaluated by experts in the fields. The supposed “misuse of consensus as evidence” is in my observation largely imaginary, and not uncommonly also involves people who are rather asymmetrically argue against a scientific consensus. For example, they will complain about the scientific consensus on climate change as not being evidence, but then approvingly cite the scientific consensus on vaccines, evolution, HIV/AIDS and loads of other scientific ‘dogma’s’ as evidence that all those “cranks” don’t know what they are talking about.

  45. Sou says:

    A Sou is worth infinitely more than 12 deniers!

  46. Brad Keyes says:

    “they will complain about the scientific consensus on climate change as not being evidence,”

    Because it’s not. Opinion is not evidence. Of anything in science. Ever.

    “but then approvingly cite the scientific consensus on vaccines, evolution, HIV/AIDS and loads of other scientific ‘dogma’s’ as evidence”

    Really? I’ve never heard “them” do this. If you’re suggesting such a manoeuvre would be inconsistent to the point of hypocrisy, I’d be the first to agree. It certainly would be. But I’ve never heard anyone do this. And I certainly wouldn’t do it. After all, the efficacy of vaccines is a question of evidence (of which there is copious). The association between HIV infection and the AIDS syndrome is a question of evidence (of which there is copious). There has never been the slightest need to measure, let alone cite, a “consensus” in either of those questions. I’d be very surprised if any figures existed to support the idea of a vaccine or HIV “consensus”—medical science simply doesn’t have its Oreskeses, Dorans or Zimmermen. They’d be laughed out of town as sub-scientists.

  47. Brad Keyes says:

    “The only people who misuse the consensus are the pseudoskeptics/deniers/cranks/contrarians.”

    Since John Cook and Dana1981 use their 97% factoid as “evidence,” I assume you’re talking about them. (You forgot “pseudoscientists” and “charlatans”, by the way.)

  48. Brad Keyes says:

    “Honestly, I’ve pretty much settled on “crank.” ”

    Then you’re of no use to Wotts in her quest for civil discussion. But since that may not be a goal you endorse anyway, perhaps you don’t particularly care.

    But you’re also being lexically infelicitous, I think. Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t “crank” suggest someone with crackpot theories? Whereas most of us “deniers” cannot possibly be accused of such, because we have no theory about climate change. We don’t need one. There are no interesting observations (as far as we know) to be explained. No phenomenon to account for. Unless, perhaps, you think the recent run of abnormally benign global weather stands in need of an explanation?

  49. Rachel says:

    Crank is actually a very good word. From Doug’s link above, the characteristics of a crank include:

    1. Cranks overestimate their own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts.
    2. Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important.
    3. Cranks rarely, if ever, acknowledge any error, no matter how trivial.
    4. Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, being uninterested in anyone else’s experience or opinions.

    I think points 1 and 3 are particularly pertinent.

  50. Brad, the latter part of your comment falls into the category of “anti-science” nonsense that I’m trying to discourage. If you really believe that to be true (nothing to explain), then your contributions here are unlikely to be constructive or worthwhile. I would encourage you to consider commenting elsewhere, where such views are encouraged and lauded.

  51. Doug Bostrom says:

    Brad ignores that the medical community has needed to appeal to consensus many times in various locations in its efforts to combat vaccination opponents. In South Africa a battle for the public mind took place over HIV, again finding a minority of cranks being compared with a consensus majority of medical professionals.

    Lousy rhetoric.

  52. Brad Keyes says:

    “Brad, the latter part of your comment falls into the category of “anti-science” nonsense that I’m trying to discourage.”

    No, it falls into the category of me telling you what we think, so as to help you achieve your laudable ambition of civil discussion. A goal which will continue to elude us all so long as we persist in believing in caricatures of other people’s mental models.

    But if you don’t want to know what we “deniers” think, just say so and I’ll spend my time helping people who are actually sincere about improving the climate discourse.

    “If you really believe that to be true (nothing to explain), then your contributions here are unlikely to be constructive or worthwhile.”

    Since I really believe that to be true—the nothing-to-explain thesis—and since it is so easily-falsifiable if false, I’m handing you, on a silver platter as it were, a chance to explain why I’m wrong, thus making history as the first person to change someone’s mind on climate.

    But if that kind of thing doesn’t interest you…

    🙂

  53. ” I’ve been doing this long enough to have a good idea of who understands the science and is able to make constructive comments, and who doesn’t. I also understand the science quite well. It is much more settled than many would like us to think. So if you’re going to take the standard “skeptical” line, expect me to be harder on you than on others. You might think that lacks balance. I disagree. Being allowed to present scientific ideas for which you have no real evidence is not balance.”

    Firstly, this is a blog. They are not good places to be doing science. If we retrace the argument, your line was: Salby is fundamentally wrong, so he should be shut up. You then agreed with your buddies extensively. When pointed out that all Salby did was present his ideas on why the attribution argument was wrong, a simple and dispassionate rebuttal of which should have be supremely easy given that you are such a great scientist and the science is so settled, you chose instead to try a theoretical exercise based on a limited, circumscribed characterization of what he said or did not say, namely the temperature-driven oceanic outgassing. The problem however is quite different: there are several temperature dependent processes that release carbon or take it up and/or go dormant millennial timescale and beyond, and not just the ocean dissolved portion. Your brilliant rebuttal with the Henry’s law would have worked if Salby’s claim had been that oceanic temperature dependent processes were responsible for adding anthropogenic-like CO2 to the atmosphere. Where did that assumption come from in the first place?

    If you don’t want to discuss ‘settled science’, you should (a) not post it and invite comments (b) be able to easily refute arguments and dismiss it (and by easy, I mean construct an argument that represents the opponent fairly accurately, and then rebut it, instead of throwing bullshit in the air like skepticalscience) (c) not say ‘I may be completely wrong’ when you don’t mean it.

    Your use of your anonymity is quite strange. It serves solely to protect your professional identity, but does nothing in terms of opening up avenues of a more freer discussion. In all my arguments, the unstated prefix is, “what if”. I am happy to go as far as my understanding and knowledge would take me, and then retreat back to what is known and accepted. How else is one supposed to do science on a blog? You are not measuring anything, doing anything, creating something, you are just talking. You, on the other hand, want to be an exact full professor with the baggage of what’s allowed and what’s not, but with only a veil drawn over your name. You attack other professors who operate exactly in the same manner as you only with their names in the open. What this means, is the real conflict lies not what your commenters are telling you but within yourself. It is the question what this blog and the anonymity brings to your table.

    If you run an evolution blog and declare, for instance, that since the science of evolution is settled you wont entertain any creationists at your blog, and your blog topics are all about how creationists are wrong, wouldn’t you look funny?

  54. Doug, wrong as always. The association between HIV and AIDS is proved by evidence. The strength of acceptance and its universality can be shown by surveys. The association itself, however, cannot be inferred from the surveys, tempting and intuitive though it may seem. Medicine indeed does not have its Zimmermen.

  55. Brad Keyes says:

    Doug ignores the fact that I’m not South African.

    Thank you, however, for sharing this interesting anecdote. Which I did not “ignore,” since I had never heard it before.

    If the medical community really did do an Oreskes/Doran/Zimmermann/Cook-style headcount of opinions, though, instead of invoking medical evidence, no wonder HIV is still so endemic. It doesn’t sound like a good strategy at all. Using pseudo-evidence to trick people into believing the truth? Hardly respectful of people’s intelligence. And unless I’m mistaken, slum-dwelling prostitutes are people.

  56. Brad Keyes says:

    Rachel, I think you forgot

    5. Cranks try to use Wikipedia as a dictionary

    6. Cranks wonder why this appeal to non-authority is taken non-seriously

  57. Shub, maybe science isn’t a good place for a blog, but this is my blog and I’ll post whatever I like.

    As far as Salby is concerned, I did not say he’s wrong and so should shut up. I said, he’s wrong and anyone who doesn’t recognise this is no skeptic. I don’t attack other professors using my anonymity. I criticise, when appropriate, their science. They’re welcome to do the same to me and have never been prevented from commenting here. There’s a massive difference between criticising/addressing scientific ideas and attacking an individual.

    I don’t wish to stop others with different ideas from commenting here. However, there are some things that are simply wrong and if the best that someone can do is “well, maybe” then I don’t have the time or the interest to engage with them. That’s not skepticism, it’s wishful/magical thinking.

  58. Brad Keyes says:

    Wotts, one more thing about this:

    “Brad, the latter part of your comment falls into the category of “anti-science” nonsense that I’m trying to discourage.”

    That’s wrong. I expressed no opposition to science whatsoever. Why would I? I’m a supporter of science—a rabid supporter, so to speak.

    Please see yesterday’s terminated thread for a somewhat illuminating (though mainly heated) discussion of a genuine example of anti-scientific sentiment. Perhaps it will help you identify it when you see it.

    My comments above might, at worst, be scientifically-wrong (not anti-scientific). You’ve had 25 years to show this, but that’s not to say you can’t show it now. Better late than never. I eagerly await edification.

  59. Rachel says:

    If you do decide to enlist some moderators then I’m probably not the best choice because I’d be putting Brad on the banned list and Shub on pending approval.

  60. Technicality, Brad. You can’t say “there’s nothing happening” and then claim that it’s not “anti-science” but maybe “scientifically-wrong”.

    A few points.

    1. I don’t want to get into a lengthy discussion about this. A bradathon is not encouraged.

    2. Ocean heat content. Arctic sea ice.

    3. My goal here is not to convince “deniers” that they’re wrong. I have a job, family, life, and plenty of other better things to do. It is an entirely pointless exercise. Unless you’re an amazing exception, nothing I say will convince you. It’s a lost cause. You’re welcome to your views. You’re also welcome to be wrong.

    4. “Trying to keep the discussion civil” is just a tagline and I’ve now worked out that it is unlikely to be possible. Furthermore, someone coming here and saying “I just don’t believe, convince me” is not really a discussion. It’s a distraction from someone who probably doesn’t understand climate science well enough to contribute to any sensible discussions. The alternative to them not understanding climate science well enough, is even less complementary.

    Keep eagerly awaiting, if you wish.

  61. No, that would probably make you the perfect choice.

  62. No, what Doug is quite correctly pointing out is that in South Africa the public was not convinced about HIV by the evidence, they were convinced through campaigns including those that used consensus ideas. Doug wasn’t saying that the link between HIV and AIDS was proven by consensus, he was saying that that was used in the campaign to convince the public of the link. Do try to keep up.

  63. Brad Keyes says:

    “You can’t say “there’s nothing happening” and then claim that it’s not “anti-science” but maybe “scientifically-wrong”. ”

    Yes I can. “There’s nothing happening” entails no attitude towards science, positive or negative. And of course it may be “scientifically-wrong.” Of course I can say that. Almost nothing we believe to be “right” is immune to scientific correction over time.

    ” “Trying to keep the discussion civil” is just a tagline ”

    I’m saddened to learn this.

    “and I’ve now worked out that it is unlikely to be possible.”

    Why? Other scientific topics can be discussed civilly—not just among the 50% of people who agree with oneself, but with the vast majority of the population.

    Maybe you’re doing something wrong. Have you considered that?

  64. As I said, I don’t want to engage in a lengthy discussion about this. Denying that anything is happening despite the evidence, is anti-science in my opinion. You can define it another way if you wish, but you can’t completely ignore the scientific evidence and then claim your statement entails no attitude towards science.

    I’m not discouraging or pleased that a civil discussion isn’t possible. It’s that it seems unlikely to be constructive. There’s nothing uncivil about the discussion we’re having here. It’s simply pointless. I don’t have the time to discuss this topic with people who think it’s okay to simply express an opinion that ignores all the evidence.

  65. Yah, but that was in response to Brad stating that the efficacy of a vaccine (as is the association between HIV and AIDS) is determined by evidence, and not consensus. which was in response to Marco’s

    “For example, they will complain about the scientific consensus on climate change as not being evidence, but then approvingly cite the scientific consensus on vaccines, evolution, HIV/AIDS and loads of other scientific ‘dogma’s’ as evidence that all those “cranks” don’t know what they are talking about.”

    Whose characterization do you think set these chains off?

  66. Read Brad’s full comment

    There has never been the slightest need to measure, let alone cite, a “consensus” in either of those questions

  67. RichArd says:

    So effectively this a blog pumping out only what you deem to be true, science as seen under Stalin – the real one.

    The arctic can be discussed forever. You may like to look at scientific ships in the first half of the 19th century , wooden sailing ships were 150 miles short of completing the north west passage . from the 1930’s the soviets were using the north east passage commercially.

    There is nothing alarming about the arctic ice.

  68. RichArd says:

    Damn did my last comment not get through.

  69. RichArd says:

    Oh funny that one did- oops.

  70. No, I have no objection to someone making a valid argument. I’m just tired of discussions about things that are definitely wrong. As far as the Arctic is concerned, I didn’t say one had to be alarmed. The increase in ocean heat content and the reduction in Arctic sea ice is evidence for overall global warming. Whether you’re alarmed by that or not is a judgement you’re entitled to make.

    As far as earlier Arctic sea ice is concerned, the scientific literature is very clear that it is lower in extent and volume now that it has been for a very long time (100s of years or longer). If you want to argue that this is wrong, you’ll need to provide some actual evidence.

  71. OPatrick says:

    New rules: good. It seemed clear you were being gamed. Probably a disorganised consipracy.

    However:
    There’s just science and if you think the way to judge it is through the behaviour of the scientists (especially if you’re basing this on private emails between a small number of scientists, most of which appear to have been taken out of context), then presumably that implies you don’t understand the actual science well enough to judge it on its own merits.

    In most cases I don’t understand the science well enough to judge it on its own merits. A good communicator, like yourself it seems so far, can make me more confident of my understanding in more cases, but in the end I normally need to rely on my confidence in the sources I base my understanding on. There is a lot of mud thrown and it helps to occasionally look at examples of this in depth, to give a wider perspective on these accusations. In almost every case I have ended up with more confidence in my trust of the scientists, as any faults on their part have turned out to be minor and largely irrelevant to their science. It also helps to see these issues discussed by people who understand them far more than I do so that we can better debunk them ourselves when they are raised elsewhere.

    To this end, would it be possible to have an open thread for such discussions? When someone raises what is an obvious off-topic distraction could their original comment be left with a link to a copy on an open thread? Any subsequent comments could then be deleted (or, if you have the time and energy, transferred).

    Another minor point – could you be stricter with people replying on sub-threads rather than the main comment thread? Brad in particular appears to be using this to dominate discussions.

  72. Furthermore, as I think I made clear in the post, I have an even bigger issue with discussions that end up revolving around whether or not we can trust climate scientists on the basis of some emails or something they may have said. Not only do I think it’s absurd to judge an entire scientific community on the basis of that type of evidence, we’ll never agree, so I don’t want to waste my time with such discussions.

  73. verytallguy says:

    Wotts,

    keep up the good work.

    A suggestion: Keep a separate thread (borehole, burrow, whatever). Put comments you deem to be uncivil, offtopic or repetition of debunked memes there.

    Unmoderated climate blogs are pointless – see Curry for where you’d end up.

  74. I’d never thought of a separate thread for unsuitable comments. OPatrick suggests the same above. Also the idea with sticking to sub-threads rather than replying on the main thread is also good.

  75. “I don’t have the time to discuss this topic with people who think it’s okay to simply express an opinion that ignores all the evidence.”

    wotts, I went and re-read the whole ‘frustration’ thread. I understand your point, and position. But, the topic is such that one is forced to discuss fundamentals, because the topic is Salby’s claims. If an established scientist is on a different path, I believe, there are only two options: dismiss him out-of-hand and quickly move away, or get down and dirty and put in the effort to refute/agree with him or her. Both can be painful. Really, I don’t see a shortcut (although people like Mashey offer several). I went and looked at John N-G’s comment. It pertains to Salby’s Melbourne talk. I haven’t seen that,but I gather it is different from his Hamburg one.

    The problem and the question of ‘cranks’ in science is a perennial one. In HIV, one of the more famous cancer biologists Peter Duesberg questioning the hypothesis early on (and there were circumstances that precipitated this, including the way the evidence was presented initially). People didn’t know what to do with him and people still don’t know. He is quite senior now, but he continues to be productive, and publishes (somewhat wordy) cancer research, including in collaboration with more ‘main-stream’ researchers who work with him. But, in the HIV ‘community’, he is a much reviled figure. Some of the creationists know molecular biology and evolutionary genetics well and they ask quite intelligent questions. Imagine that homoeopathy was the establishment. Simon Singh would have been the crank and heretic, wouldn’t he? In his books, Kary Mullis asks some very good questions about cholesterol, some aspects of which are finally bobbing up to the surface in mainstream media, today. So crankery can be quite useful if you know to handle it.

  76. OPatrick says:

    If an established scientist is on a different path, I believe, there are only two options: dismiss him out-of-hand and quickly move away, or get down and dirty and put in the effort to refute/agree with him or her.

    Surely there is a third option, which is to rely on someone who has already convincingly shown that the arguments are invalid? You can remain open to the possibility of further evidence coming to light without having to remain open on the validity of conclusions based on the current evidence.

  77. I agree with the second part. I agree, for example, that CO2 is anthropogenic. I examined Curtis’s list of evidence and several of the items agree with Salby: there is no proper carbon budgeting. But that doesn’t mean Curtis is wrong and Salby is right.

    The only difference is, when someone like Salby is rearranging the same existing evidence and asking his audience to look it in a different way, what options are available other than dismissing him as a fruitcake, or actually wasting time with his stuff.

  78. Marco says:

    The consensus paper was explicitely written to counteract the claims, as specifically noted in the paper, that there is no consensus. Your attempts to twist what Dana and John are saying is duly noted. I’ll leave it at that, or we have another thread that gets Brad Keyes’ed.

  79. Joshua says:

    I realize I’m in a minority here, and certainly I have my opinion shaped by the fact that I am called a “thread-jacking troll” on a regular basis, but I don’t see the need for moderation, and I haven’t yet seen a blog where moderation is, IMO, successful.

    How is it determined whether comments are “off-topic.” Well, certainly the blog-owner can make that determination based on what h/she deems to be “the topic,” but it will still be arbitrary (in the sense of being based on subjective criteria).

    What is the harm in letting discussions between participants go where they will go? People who don’t want to participate in a particular discussion can simply not participate. Are RealClimate or WUWT somehow better blogs because they heavily moderate comments? Well, the “skeptics” would say no to RC and yes to WUWT, and “realists” would say no to WUWT and yes to RC. Same ol’ same ol’. People will complain that the moderation is “unfair” and equals “censorship,” and continue feeling justified in their self-victimhood.

    These problems are intrinsic to the forum. They are just part of the forum’s character. You can’t just exorcise them or cut them out precisely with some kind of cyber-surgery.

    My suggestion would be that you make it clear in comments when you come across something that you would rather not have discussed, or ask the participants to move the discussion to another, more appropriate thread (provide a link). Seems to me that thus far, one of the things that is fairly unique about this blog is the respect that the commenters have for your perspective. Those who might be called “trolls,” such as Brad and Shub, don’t seem to be interested in antagonizing you, so much as interested in arguing about issues that don’t interest you. I would guess that if you just asked them to move the discussions to a more directly relevant thread, they might agree to do so. Or, maybe the discussions would simply peter out.

  80. The only difference is, when someone like Salby is rearranging the same existing evidence and asking his audience to look it in a different way, what options are available other than dismissing him as a fruitcake, or actually wasting time with his stuff.

    I don’t know about Salby being a fruitcake, but there are two ways to look at him as a scientist. Consider his behaviour. There is documented evidence that his behaviour – at least with regards to funding – is not regarded as acceptable by a major funding body. A second way is to consider the science he presents. It easily shown to be wrong. I don’t actually care if what he presents seems like complicated mathematics. You don’t need to directly refute the detailed mathematics, you just need to show that what it suggests is wrong – as it is. So, yes I’ve wasted some time with it but I was hoping that it would illustrate that it was wrong and everyone could move on. Doesn’t seem to have quite worked that way.

  81. In a sense, that is what I was hoping. If I just popped up and said “can we stop this now” that it would stop. It seems not to be working all that well in certain circumstances. So, yes I would aim to still do a bit of that but I will probably also simply snip people when it doesn’t work. So maybe things won’t change quite as much as this post was indicating (especially if hints to those commenters who are starting to go a bit too far off track work) but I do think there have been occasions when a harder line would have been beneficial.

  82. Brad Keyes says:

    Wotts,

    you feel Doug has refuted my claim that,

    “There has never been the slightest need to measure, let alone cite, a “consensus” in either of those questions ”

    And I suppose he has, but only if it actually was necessary to resort to consensualist propaganda in South Africa—which I have my doubts about, based on my general respect for the public’s intelligence. I’ll have to find out more about the epidode in question though.

    So perhaps I should modify my statement to:

    “There has never been the slightest scientific need, nor the slightest demagogic need (in the developed world), to measure, let alone cite, a “consensus” in either of those questions ”

    When you say,

    “… in South Africa the public was not convinced about HIV by the evidence, they were convinced through campaigns including those that used consensus ideas.

    You show a refreshing capacity to distinguish consensus from evidence! It may surprise you how many people on your “side” can’t. For example, 12-Deniers Sou has adamantly insisted (to me and, quite possibly, her own readers?) that “consensus” refers to a kind of evidence. Perhaps your outreach efforts could start with some inreach. There’s some pretty fundamental ignorance there in your own community.

  83. Marco says:

    I can see that Brad Keyes has never ever read a single Cochrane Review. All those reviews are explicitly designed to quantitate the evidence for and against, and result in the end in something that is in essence a consensus statement. Medical professionals also consistently rely on consensus statements when using approved drugs, where a consensus is formed by the regulatory agencies approving the drug. You will also find that the medical profession is perfused with consensus groups reporting the consensus reached on certain topics. This is generally through a non-explicit quantitation of the available evidence by the experts.

  84. In South Africa there was certainly a period where the link between HIV and AIDS was disputed, including by the country’s president – despite the evidence being over-whelming.

    Given that we’re discussing this. There are many on the other side of the debate who also seem to lack of understanding of the role of consensus in the global warming debate. It’s certainly my view (and, for example, I have read Cook et al. quite thoroughly) that the only intended role for consensus is to illustrate the strength of the evidence. Noone credible, I believe, is claiming that the evidence is strong because of the existence of a consensus. The suggestion is that a consensus exists because the evidence is strong.

  85. Brad Keyes says:

    Wotts,

    It’s unclear to me (and, possibly, to Joshua? I’m not sure) why there are topics “you would rather not have discussed.” Shouldn’t you welcome the organic development of the conversation into areas whose relevance hadn’t hitherto occurred to you?

    Joshua,

    that’s a really great comment.

    If I were you I’d take the fact that you are “called a “thread-jacking troll” on a regular basis” as a compliment. It suggests you are pointing out undeniable and important things. In my online experience, there is only one real meaning of good faith questioner: “someone who raises objections I have an easy comeback for.” And there is only one real meaning of troll: “someone whose argument I can’t rebutt.”

    By the way, if I lost my patience with you the other day, it’s only because you seemed to be pre-emptively treating me as a trickster who would have no qualms about calling “criticism” “harassment” and vice versa. You may have encountered such tricksters often, and it must have been frustrating. But you can’t assume the next person you meet is going to do the same thing—that simply aborts the conversation before it begins. There is, I’m afraid, no alternative but to take a leap of faith, get on with the argument and, if they reveal themselves to be arguing in bad faith, then you can stop wasting your time on them.

  86. BBD says:

    Oh God no. Not this again.

    Wotts – be aware that BK has mounted another hobby horse: his “thing” about consensus and evidence. For all his show of surface intelligence, Brad is demonstrably incapable of understanding that the consensus arises from the evidence but is not part of it. He has had this explained to him literally hundreds of times elsewhere. Either that, or he understands this simple relationship perfectly but enjoys trolling comment threads with it.

  87. Let’s see if I can clarify. I see no real benefit to discussions about the honesty/decency/credibility of climate scientists in general. I don’t think we can judge an entire field on the basis of what someone has said or on the basis of a set of emails. Maybe it has some relevance to certain individuals, but not to the field overall. Also, from what I’ve read a number of these things were taken out of context. Despite that, I see no point in going in circles around a topic that we will unlikely reach any agreement about. Maybe, the more fundamental point – though – is that if one is basing their assessment of the science of the behaviour of some scientists, then it probably means you can’t actually address the science directly and hence are using the behaviour argument to make a judgement about something that you (not you specifically) don’t understand.

    Organic development can be okay, but part of what I’d like to do here is actually address certain specifics. Can we reach agreement (or not) about something. That discussion the heading off at some tangent then makes that tricky.

  88. BBD says:

    It’s unclear to me (and, possibly, to Joshua? I’m not sure) why there are topics “you would rather not have discussed.”

    Try reading what our host actually writes, Brad. Wotts has been explicit about this above.

  89. Brad Keyes says:

    OPatrick—

    “Another minor point – could you be stricter with people replying on sub-threads rather than the main comment thread?”

    No, she couldn’t, because that would mean pretending that the phrase “relying on” had any kind of objective meaning. It would just become an arbitrary, all-purpose excuse for excluding anyone you didn’t like (cf. the undefinable notion of “sloganeering” abused in precisely this way by the SkS mods).

  90. BBD says:

    I don’t believe it. We crossed. Again.

    😉

  91. BBD says:

    You bear a grudge because you were banned promptly from SkS.

  92. BBD says:

    I see that this thread, like the last, is now all about Brad.

    This is not new, but it gets more tedious each time it happens.

  93. See Brad, BBD has a point. I quite like people making comments but you’ve largely managed to hijack this thread. That’s one of the things I’m trying to avoid. One of my early moderation policies was “trying to stick to one conversation at a time”. Can you try and do that?

  94. Brad Keyes says:

    “Maybe, the more fundamental point – though – is that if one is basing their assessment of the science of the behaviour of some scientists, then it probably means you can’t actually address the science directly and hence are using the behaviour argument to make a judgement about something that you (not you specifically) don’t understand.”

    Hold on—didn’t you use the behavior argument with Salby? I didn’t follow that thread closely so please correct me if I’m wrong, but I did see copied-and-pasted official findings as to his apparently dishonest behavior, and I did see you using this as a reason not to take his scientific claims seriously, didn’t I?

    If so, I don’t think you did anything unreasonable—provided he actually was dishonest, and you weren’t simply using the Argument From Committee to convict him of such.

    Science is conduct, after all.

  95. OPatrick says:

    Brad, I’m confused by your comment. Did you misread mine? It would help if it were underneath my own so we could more easily check.

  96. Some on that thread made the behaviour argument against Salby. Other than responding to their comments I haven’t used it. I may have pointed out that one could use a behaviour argument against Salby, but you don’t need to. He’s wrong because his science is easily shown to be incorrect, not because of his behaviour.

  97. Brad Keyes says:

    A grudge? LOL! Not quite, BBD—I thank God for the countless hours of my life saved by that fact. Since then, the various horror stories I’ve read about selective deletion and biased moderation make me realize I dodged a bullet by being banned. (And it wasn’t for “sloganeering” anyway.)

  98. OPatrick says:

    If you fire enough shot some will hit!

  99. Oh, and science isn’t really conduct. That’s what people outside science seem to think, but really science is just science. Some scientists are nice, some aren’t. Some behave well, others don’t. There are certainly people in my field that are regarded more highly because of their behaviour and others who aren’t. That may influence how seriously you consider their science, but at the end of the day it’s just the science.

  100. Brad Keyes says:

    “I may have pointed out that one could use a behaviour argument against Salby”

    So why can’t one use it against, say, Santer, Jones or Mann?

  101. This post was really just about some new ideas I have with regards to how I would like the site to evolve. Given that people have made a number of useful comments, and I need to get some work done, I’m going to close comments on this thread.

  102. BBD says:

    Santer is blameless. You are rehearsing an old lie. This is beyond tedious Brad. Do your research, don’t just parrot lies from the past. You said facts matter – so check your facts.

  103. Okay, I worded that badly. One could highlight Salby’s behaviour and use it to judge his character. However, you don’t need to do this to show his science is wrong and, if you do, that wouldn’t immediately imply his science was wrong. So, if you want to judge Santer, Jones, Mann and discard their work as a result of that judgement, you could do so and it would make no difference.

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