Monthly Archives: November 2014

Science mit Dana

In today’s post I want to simplify—while expanding on—one of the biggest stories I covered at The Guardian: an exposé on the growing contrarian problem, and the threat it poses to the literary integrity of science. —D. Nuccitelli

Editing a Journal for Dummies

The Motorscooter Diaries: The author traces his crippling fear of the Earth's climate to a trip across Europe.

The Motorscooter Diaries: The author traces his crippling fear of the Earth’s climate to a gap-year trip across Europe. “As my pilgrimage puttered from Alps to Andalusia, I literally saw Nature changing in front of my eyes.”
Dana was only 19.

Someone’s submitted a paper. Should I accept it?

Probably, because it’s science.

Not necessarily, though. The power vested in you as editor, censor and gatekeeper comes with a sacred duty: to protect both the reputation of the journal, and the credibility of science itself, from injury.

That’s why you should only publish sound papers, not flawed (contrarian) ones.

What technical vocabulary do I need?

Practice the following keywords until ‘editorese’ is so natural to you that you can speak it without thinking (which is how scientists speak).

‘Sound science’ refers to the science that gets the science right, and will therefore “stand the test of time.”

(Proper science should never be provisional—i.e., subject to reëvaluation in the light of future findings. That’s a sure sign of what we call crap science.)

Synonyms for ‘sound’ include ‘mainstream,‘ ‘climate and the.’

At the other end of the spectrum there are descriptors like contrarian and flawed, which are interchangeable.

A contrarian paper is one by contrarian scientists.

(By analogy, a flawed paper is one by flawed scientistsi.e., contrarians.)

A contrarian scientist is one who thinks he knows better than previous scientists, or has ideas that conflict with, depart from, supplement, or disrespect the boundaries of, the science we currently accept.

Pro Tip for Amateurs

Unless you’re active in the field you probably haven’t kept up with the full breadth and depth of our understanding of the climate system, or what ‘the climate system’ means. So you might be wondering how you’re supposed to know if a given climate hypothesis is mainstream or flawed.

But, you’ll be pleased to know, it’s rather easy.

Climate science isn’t nearly as complex as—say—whatever you do. So far we’ve only produced one good hypothesis (AGW). So any attempt to introduce a second idea can automatically be considered contrarian, i.e. unsound.

It’s the sun? Flawed. It’s natural? Flawed. It’s not us? Flawed. It’s [insert groundbreaking explanation which, if confirmed, would force us to rethink everything we thought we knew about the drivers of terrestrial weather]? Flawed.

How good are editors at screening out flawed (‘contrarian’) science?

That’s a good question, with a precise answer. One of the fun projects I’ve been involved in—when I’m not busy raising awareness of what happens to editors who print contrarian science—is something called consensus research, which essentially tells us how well the editorial community is heeding our threats.

Last time we checked, they were being pretty careful; for every hundred papers that made it to print, only 3 were flawed.

Beyond The Stats!

You’ve probably heard the myth that the ratio of scientific papers supporting science has been stuck at 97% for several years now, with no sign of improving.

While this is true, don’t be misled by the data (a classic rookie mistake in climate science). What the myth doesn’t want you to know is that the 97% consensus is—in scientific parlance—”strengthening.” All the time.

Unfortunately, so is the dissensus. This is what gives less sophisticated readers the impression science isn’t getting more and more persuasive every year—but I don’t have to tell you how misguided that is. Barely a day goes by that researchers don’t step in a fresh lode of data consistent with everything science has been saying all along.

And here’s the killer point:

They’re obviously not mistaken in any gross way, or they would have run out of evidence years ago.

After all, we all know that nature keeps track of how much evidence it’s given to each hypothesis and immediately stops reconfirming it once scientists have got the level of empirical vindication they deserve.

(If you’ve ever wondered why experiments only work the first few times, now you know.)

So the fact that climate science still hasn’t hit its quota—that even after 26 years, new studies are still delivering the desired findings—is the most compelling proof of how true the science is, scientifically.

Sure, science is always right, as a rule, but no science has ever been this right before.

It’s no wonder then that the denialists—and pseudobelievalist accomplices like José Duarte—feel the need to disembowel consensus studies so thoroughly. It’s not as if these debunkings are novel. I don’t think any of the long litany of methodological problems they’ve “exposed” in our paper were original, or even unexpected.

I’m hard-pressed to think of any rule of science we broke that hadn’t already been broken a decade ago, by Oreskes04. (Let us know in comments if I’ve overlooked one.)

That’s why demands for the “retraction” of our “disgraceful… scam” paper are not only tedious, but disingenuous: the study in question was a slight improvement, if anything, on the unreviewed, unreviewable one-page ‘Essay’ by Naomi Oreskes that started this whole genre, back in 2004.

But if you ask a so-called skeptic, we’re the ones responsible for violating the purity of the literature. Clearly they think that, ten years after the initial defloration, it somehow “grows back.” LOL. (But then, as long as we’re denying 200 years of radiative physics, why not deny the facts of female reproductive anatomy while we’re at it?)

If skeptics aren’t hypocrites, then why aren’t we hearing [m]any calls for Science to “take one small step to restore the credibility of the climate intelligentsia” or “exhibit a modicum of editorial integrity” or “excise the cancer of pseudoscholarship that threatens not only climate science but the entire body of knowledge if it’s allowed to metastasize” by pulling Oreskes04?

The next time someone calls Cook13 an academic abomination, do what I do: rub their double standards in their face with a link to the original and best.

Digressions aside, then, the only interesting thing about the attacks on our science is the amount of overkill involved. It seems the verdict of consensuology still touches a denialist nerve—and it’s just as raw as it was a decade ago.

So if those of us on the side of the angels appear to be churning out the same study every two years, now you know why. I’m not going to pretend it’s cutting-edge science—for all I know it’s not even sciencebut it is effective.

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America, it’s time we had a conversation about Islam

A guest post by Darrell Harb

What you didn’t know about the treasures of the Islamic mind could fill a book, but to save you buying it here’s a summary:

“Islamic science continues to advance at a rate comparable to [that of] climate science,” concluded the CIA report

We all admire our climatologists for the one scientific discovery they’ve made so far (man-made global warming, or AGW) in the short 100-to-200-year history of their field, and we hold high expectations for the sequel.

And rightly so.

Meanwhile, though, rumors of the death of Muslim science ~700 years ago have been greatly exaggerated. Scientists in the Islamic world might not be quite as prolific as they were in the Middle Ages, but they still add something to human knowledge every 50-60 years. So the next time someone identifies the United Nations’ IPCC with “the world’s leading scientists,” politely remind him or her: they’re only leading the Western world!

Jihad simply means ‘a neat way of doing something; a clever way of solving a problem.’

Scientists and mathematicians use the word all the time in the Islamic world. Deniers love to take it out of context and put a scandalous spin on it, but there’s nothing nefarious about it at all.

In 2011 a cross-disciplinary team of alchemists, algeneticists and molecular albiochemists at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University announced it had finally explained away the evolution of the eye.

Can you name the inventor of Pascal’s Wager?

Like most Westerners, you probably said Greg Craven. Surprisingly, though, the thought experiment goes all the way back to 990 AD, when the Persian philosopher Abu al-Hassan al-Amiri wrote his Kitab al-amad ‘ala’l-abad.

But unlike its craven and fallacious Christian reboot, Al-Amiri’s argument for theistic fidelity was perfectly valid.

That’s because the Koranic hell isn’t just a bad place to live. It’s a really, really bad place to live.

Considering we didn’t even have the power drill, the electric cattle prod or the industrial meat-grinder back when Allah was real, it’s a remarkable feat of the imagination. A reader has no choice but to admire His sheer inventiveness even as He details the itinerary of agony that awaits one.

For Muslims, God is 100% committed to customer excruciation. If you denialize that, you’re in store for an adventure in the receiving end of sadism that will make Abu Ghraib under Saddam look like Abu Ghraib under American occupation.

By comparison, the Bible’s attempts at eschatological blackmail “read like something written by a Batman villain’s intern,” as Megan McArdle might say.

The ‘scientist,’ Bible-basher and Qur’an-basher Richard Dawkins concedes that Jews share a common ancestor with apes but insists—contrary to what Islamic scholars discovered 1100 years before the birth of Darwin!—that they’re not directly descended from them. Prof. Dawkins’ assault on 14 centuries of science might be vindicated someday (anything’s possible) but in the meantime it should be seen as a hypothesis, not a fact, according to no less a maven than the non-Muslim Mark Maslin.

Jews “evolved from apes,” says a monograph by Prof. Maslin which goes on to confirm the existence of penicillin.

UPDATE Professor Maslin himself—doyen of climate anthropology—has weighed in and settled the origins controversy to the satisfaction of all credible people.

‘You cannot […] disbelieve that [Jewish] people evolved from apes,’ decrees Maslin, in a magisterial treatise that’s being called an overdue up-yours to Dawkins-worshipping infidelusionists (not to mention a vindication of everything Allah has been trying to reveal through our thick skulls for the last 1400 years).

In order to buy the ‘descent from a common ancestor’ cop-out [see below], logic (says Maslin) would require you to ‘disbelieve in penicillin’!


Pray tell, my penicillin-denying conspecifics:

What exactly do you think is oozing out of yon P. notatus? What would you call that spreading slick of magic mold juice that appears to be mitigating the mitotic mojo of most microbes?

Name the fungal byproduct identified by Fleming in 1928 for its rôle in pathogenic cock-blocking. You have one minute.

Maslin won’t run from a debate. If you disagree with his science he’ll happily defend his politics.

Liquid caloric? Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole?

No, let me guess:

It’s The Sun, right?

Risible. And you wonder why today’s really top-notch science speakers—the Menn, the Maslins and their notch-mates—are willing to ‘Talk Politics But not Science’ with you and your ilk!

Your ilk makes me sick.

Scientists blame our irrational fear of terrorism on statistical illiteracy.

For instance, we all know that up to 3,000 Americans were killed by Islamic terrorism in the worst year, 2001; yet this death toll is minuscule when seen in proportion to the facts—facts like:

  • The post-9/11 Iraq War killed 600,000-1,000,000 innocent Iraqis. (Source: Lancet.)
  • Science expert Kofi Annan estimates climate change is killing 300,000 people each year.
  • While it’s not clear why Annan believes this, who he’s referring to or whether he has any idea what he’s talking about, uncertainty is not your friend. Far from it. The science of uncertainty (a young field pioneered by Stefan Lewandowsky) tells us that our lack of certainty actually increases the risk of Annan’s claims being true.
  • Furthermore, there were 50 million climate refugees in 2010 according to a 2005 UNEP report… and unless the world learns its lesson fast, the same humanitarian catastrophe (possibly involving the same refugees, possibly new ones; scientists aren’t sure) is scheduled to happen all over again in 2020!
  • While scientists can’t rule out the possibility that if you live in America you might be killed by Islamic terrorists, they point out you’re 4 times as likely to die every time you fly. Especially if the plane is hijacked by Muslims.
  • For each 1 (one) person who died as a result of Islamic terrorism in America last year, over 1,200 people died as a result of Islamic terrorism in the Muslim world. Yet somehow we continue to see Islam as dangerous.
  • Scientists say this is because we watch Fox.

Islamic society is surprisingly progressive on social issues! For instance:

  • Freedom of religion is a sacred right no matter which of the three you follow. In a Muslim country someone like Barack Obama would never have to pretend he was a Christian.
  • Muslims believe in the intrinsic dignity of the handicapped and are appalled by our custom, in the West, of allowing blind people to be led around by dogs.
  • The Prophet Muhammad might not have been a dog person, but he wasn’t exactly a people person either. And from the comfort of the 21st century it’s all too easy to condemn the killing sprees he led against both species. But what we forget is that back in those days, the Arab world could often be a bit of a violent place. Far from merely being a man of his times, though, Muhammad is actually considered a pioneer in the anti-discrimination movement—a patron saint, as it were—for the indiscriminate nature of his massacres.

Western science has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with Islam in understanding the denial (kufr) problem. 1400 years ago—and with greater sophistication and less confusion than the Lewandowskys and Oreskeses of the world—the Archangel Gibreel spelled out the diagnostic criteria for no less than than eight subspecies of kāfir. These classes, vividly if not lovingly described in the Holy Qur’an, correspond roughly to what we would call 1. deniers, 2. denialists, 3. disinformers, 4. misinformers, 5. contrarians, 6. skeptics, and two other types we haven’t even got names for yet!

Recent advances in telephoto lenses and robotics enable us to get a closer look at pigs than ever. And don’t worry, there’s no risk of actually touching them. Muslim scientists have now found evidence that the animal is a semi-digitigrade ungulate—and that its “trotters” are just another variant on exactly the same pentadactyl template expressed in the hands and feet of Mammalia as seemingly diverse as the monkey, the dog and the human Jew.

You probably think it was Naomi Oreskes who first imported the idea of consensus into science. Right?

That myth is understandable, given that Western science showed a complete and contemptuous lack of interest in majority opinion until 2004. But it was Islamic science, not climate science, that first abandoned evidence in favor of consensus… a full 700 years earlier! Consensus science was, in fact, the final (and therefore most triumphant) invention of the Golden Age of Islamic science and marked an abrupt transition to the current—much gentler—period of expansion in Muslim knowledge.

Another “discovery” you might attribute to Professor Oreskes is the fact that a small handful of Jews is capable of holding back an entire society by sowing uncertainty. But did you know they’d already been identified as ‘merchants of doubt’ in a ḥadīth (a collection of the Prophet’s sayings) back in the late 8th century AD?

It used to be assumed that the Koran’s advice about alcohol had something to do with the unedifying symptoms of intoxication, particularly in persons incapable of handling the piss responsibly.

This explanation was ruled out just a few years ago, when Muslim nurses at a UK hospital refused to use an alcohol-based hand wash. What their brave protest reveals is that the Prophet’s objection was not to the physiological effects of ethanol in aqueous solution, or not just to them, but to the very hydroxyl group (-OH) that defines it qua chemical compound.

Why exactly Muhammad didn’t care for the molecule is a question on which even the British nurses could offer no assistance. (But then, the guy was a couple of kangaroos short of a mob.) The extraordinary thing, however, is that he knew enough chemistry to have an opinion in the first place. Given that Western science at the time still hadn’t accepted atomic theory, the Koran’s implicit grasp of such concepts as the carbon chain, hydrogen bonds and functional groups recommends it as one of the intellectual gems of world literature.

Islam was a religion of peace, open-mindedness and moderate alcohol consumption until it was hijacked by radical extremists like the Prophet Muhammad.

About the author

Darrell Harb, an acquaintance of Climate Nuremberg’s founder, describes himself not as a Muslim but as “an objective seeker of truth who have spent my career comparing the world’s great belief systems purely on their merits.”

Dr Harb forcefully denies allegations of antisemitism, saying: “Some of my best friends are Jew! After all, I grew up on the Upper East Side [in Manhattan]—right at the heart of the global Jew machine. How could I not have Jew friends?”

Climate Nuremberg was glad to give Dr Harb an organ with which to share his (personal) take on Muslim society because it’s always been our editorial position that the more sleep you lose over Islam, the less effective you will be when it comes to worrying about real problems. Like climate change, global warming and climate disruption.

No means no: protecting yourself from Illegitimate Insertion

Guest post by Stephan Lewandowsky
Bristol University • School of Theoretical Conspiracism

In a way, today’s scientists have it better than Hypatia of Alexandria. They don’t have to worry about being flayed with sharpened stones—yet; but they do endure things no scientist should.


Victims of bullying—like climate scientists—become bullies themselves, warns Lewandowsky, who knows of several climatologists who’ve now progressed to enuresis and fire-setting.

They never signed up for this.

Nobody said their life’s work would be critically scrutinized, repositioned from fact to theory and slandered as “uncertain.”

Nobody warned them their work was going to be forcibly disclosed, competitively replicated (usually with different results), pedantically ransacked for errors and fallacies, refuted in and out of the peer-reviewed literature, ignored, investigated and cleared by two-dozen independent inquiries, debunked by amateurs of no scientific standing, and disbelieved.

(It’s the disbelief that hurts the most.)

The methods may have changed over the centuries, but whether it’s the Roman Inquisition interrogating Giordano Bruno or some head-in-the-sand blogger intimidating the ANU by asking for information, the point of questioning academics is always the same: to stifle inquiry.

Psychologists familiar with the way deniers behave have called it “bullying.” Wikipedia tells us that,

The word “bully” was first used in the 1530s meaning “sweetheart”, applied to either sex, from the Dutch boel “lover, brother” […] The meaning deteriorated through the 17th century through “fine fellow”, “blusterer”, to “harasser of the weak”.

I have an uglier term for harassment of the weak: illegitimate insertion.

When Inboxes Attack: safety tips for email recipients

Because bullying campaigns take the form of email, they can be hard to distinguish from emails.

The point of questioning academics is always the same: to stifle inquiry.

But bear in mind at all times that:

  • A real scientist will always use the email address of a reputable institution.
  • A real scientist will always state his/her credentials and repeatedly acknowledge yours, thus establishing a basis of mutual legitimacy for the interaction.
  • A real scientist will never ask for your credit card number.
  • A real scientist will seldom threaten to rape and murder your family; this is an admission of losing the argument, something proper academics rarely concede.

Deniers often take advantage of the fundamental and absolute openness that is the sine qua non of all science to disguise their attacks as requests for information.

There are, however, some subtle tipoffs. A mala fide email often gives itself away when the sender

  • claims to be a scientist but says words only a conservative would use: bitter, cling, guns, religion, Rush, Limbaugh, Popper, Feynman, etc.
  • claims to be “skeptical,” but later makes a comment that reveals detailed knowledge of your work. Remember, real skeptics know almost nothing about climate science, which is why they’re not convinced yet. But if they understand the science, that’s mens rea right there—they are (by definition) denying it.
  • has a paranoid or distrustful tone. If you sense even the slightest subtext of suspicion, this should set off major alarm bells.
  • casts aspersions on your manhood, then proceeds to hustle you with inflated claims about expensive supplements and weird exercises that just don’t work. Remember guys: if the “results” sound too good to be true, why haven’t you read about it in the peer-reviewed literature?

When people ask for your data, what do they really want?

This is a good question with no easy answers.

A Freedom of Information [FOI] request isn’t necessarily a vexatious, chilling assault on science. It probably is; but what if a legitimate scholar simply needs some data to strengthen the consensus?

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Science for antiscientists: Knowing your enemy

Are you one of the estimated 49% of the general public, or 3% of scientists, who don’t believe what science is telling us?

That’s because you’re scientifically illiterate, say scientists. If you understood how and why science works—goes the latest thinking in the science of antiscience—you’d see how unbelievably credible it is, and immediately switch sides.

The great thing is, it’s not even subtle, complex, unintuitive, mathematical or zen. You’ll pick up how science works in five minutes, no sweat. That’s what the rest of us did.

Fun fact: a science degree is the most pointless known way of spending your college years. I discovered this the hard way. The median high school graduate already knows how science works. (That’s why we all feel qualified to take a side in the climate debate and defend it til we’re blue in the face.) Bachelor of Science, really? What species of over-schooled rube is Big Education going to unleash upon the workforce next—the Walking graduate? The PhD in Chewing Gum? The jack of all trades with a Masters in None? The English major?

Without further ado, here’s a year or so’s worth of my B.S., packed tight for your edification. (I’ve probably forgotten to cover a couple of concepts but I’ll do another post later to tie up any loose ends.)

Once you read this you’re going to feel pretty silly for spending the last 25 years angrily denouncing [what you thought was] science!

Science has been defined as “the belief in the knowledge of experts.”

Knowledge has been defined as justified, true belief ever since 369 BC, when Plato laid the groundwork for epistemology in his dialogue Theaetetus.

That’s wrong though, as the great half-geologist half-historian Naomi Oreskes revealed in 2010. Thanks to Oreskes, Western civilization now has a proper definition. Knowledge, it turns out, is “the ideas accepted by the fellowship of scholars.” Thus “we can think of scientific knowledge as a consensus of experts.”

You’ve probably heard scientists talk—obsessively—about their goal of “achieving consensus,” a phrase they borrowed from politics. But what exactly would this entail? John Cook explains:

Science achieves consensus when scientists stop arguing.

Arguing means reasoning. Substituting, we get:

Science achieves consensus when scientists stop reasoning.

With Oreskes’ discovery of the identity of consensus and knowledge, the formula reduces to:

Science achieves knowledge when scientists stop reasoning.

Why do we need science?

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