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Reblogged: How To Support Simberg and CEI Against Michael Mann

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On July 13, 2012, Rand Simberg (an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute) wrote a blog post critical of Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann and his work on global warming: “The Other Scandal In Unhappy Valley“.

Mann subsequently demanded that CEI retract the post and apologize for it.

CEI declined.  CEI general counsel Sam Kazman wrote:

Shortly after that post was published in mid-July, CEI removed two sentences that it regarded as inappropriate.  However, we view the post as a valid commentary on Michael Mann’s research…

And regardless of how one views Mann’s work, his threatened lawsuit is directly contrary to First Amendment law regarding public debate over controversial issues.  Michael Mann may believe we face a global warming threat, but his actions represent an unfounded attempt to freeze discussion of his views.

In short, we’re not retracting the piece, and we’re not apologizing for it.

In response, Mann filed a lawsuit against CEI and Rand Simberg, as well as National Review and columnist Mark Steyn (who quoted portions of Simberg’s piece).

CEI has stated they will defend their “First Amendment rights“.  They’ve also posted their legal defense of Simberg’s blog post.

CEI is accepting donations to help them on this issue and their other work.  I’ve gladly donated.

(BTW, their website notes, “CEI is a non-partisan, educational and research institute operating under Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. CEI accepts no government grants or contracts, nor do we have an endowment. Contributions to our efforts are tax-deductible.”)

If you want to support CEI, you can donate here.

I’ll also be staying tuned for updates on Rand Simberg’s blog, Transterrestrial Musings, and will pass them along as appropriate.

[Crossposted from GeekPress.]

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In July 2013, a judge allowed this case to proceed to the next stage. The defendants that asked the judge to throw it out based on a law that allows free speech exemptions to libel "in furtherance of the right to advocacy". 

 

Key text highlighted by the judge was the claim that Mann had "molested and tortured data". The judge said that a reader could interpret this as a statement of fact -- i.e. that Mann had committed scientific fraud -- rather than opinion. The judge also pointed to the article's claim that Mann is "the man behind the fraudulent climate-change hockey-stick graph". In addition, the article drew a parallel to the Jerry Sandusky case, claiming that the University had covered up Mann's wrong doing in a similar fashion.

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Yes, from legal comments I've read on the case, the parallel drawn between "molested data" and Sandusky (and proximity of references) strengthens the defamation claim (I personally take a strong view of freedom of speech, but professional defamation certainly provides a direct case for tort). Another issue is that there is good documentation of Steyn and NRO being aware of the reality of the "fraud" claims, i.e. the findings of the many different international investigations into the matter, making it untenable to defend as "opinion".

 

For context, there is general clarity that no fraudulent data maniuplation actually took place, even aside from all these investigations by different agencies and scientific authorities. The data has been publicly available since 1999 and was drawn from other public sources, the questions of statistical methods have been beaten to death, leaving room for improvements which subsequent work addressed but nothing remotely like evidence of "falsification", and in scientific terms the continual independent replication of the "hockey stick" shape by different teams and proxy reconstructions is the final/authoritative assessment on whether results are valid and relevant to the question of physical climate. E.g.:

 

"Most Comprehensive Paleoclimate Reconstruction Confirms Hockey Stick"

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/07/08/2261531/most-comprehensive-paleoclimate-reconstruction-confirms-hockey-stick/#

 

"78 researchers from 24 countries, together with many other colleagues, worked for seven years in the PAGES 2k project on the new climate reconstruction. “2k” stands for the last 2000 years, while PAGES stands for the Past Global Changes program launched in 1991. Recently, their new study was published in Nature Geoscience. It is based on 511 climate archives from around the world, from sediments, ice cores, tree rings, corals, stalagmites, pollen or historical documents and measurements (Fig. 1). All data are freely available. The global average of the new reconstruction looks like a twin of the original “hockey stick”, the first such reconstruction published fifteen years ago."

 

"For the scientific community, the confirmation of the old hockey stick is no surprise (except perhaps for the closeness of the match); many other climate reconstructions with a similar time evolution have already appeared since. Mann et al. at the time cautiously assumed a wide margin of uncertainty (light blue) because of their limited data base and a possible underestimation of the variance by their method; later reconstructions run largely within this margin. The work of Mann and colleagues has gained the highest recognition. For example, Bradley was honoured in 2007 with the Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union and Mann likewise in 2012, and both were (as well as Hughes) elected as fellows of the American Geophysical Union. Politically motivated attacks on their work were immense, however – both Bradley and Mann have published books about that experience:"

 

(Article by German oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf, translated from a science blog.)

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Yes, I am fascinated by the intersection of 'objectivism' and questions of science that force a choice between political ideology and scientific reasoning, and the reasons why science is so consistently and quickly rejected in the face of such contradictions. (You must admit, on the surface the notion of something that calls itself "objectivism" but positions itself in conflict with scientific method *seems* interesting.)

 

I was very interested in Rand when I was young, and essentially disappointed to learn that "objectivism" in practice is essentially another name for conservatism. (Cue Hayek, "Conservatism is only as good as that which it conserves".)

 

I take it you imagine you are able to reject points by branding them as "talking points". Yes, they are points, written down in language, which makes them talking points. It would probably be more helpful to post something that engages your and my brain, or is not essentially a throwaway ad hominem comment...

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Yes, I am fascinated by the intersection of 'objectivism' and questions of science that force a choice between political ideology and scientific reasoning, and the reasons why science is so consistently and quickly rejected in the face of such contradictions. (You must admit, on the surface the notion of something that calls itself "objectivism" but positions itself in conflict with scientific method *seems* interesting.)

 

I was very interested in Rand when I was young, and essentially disappointed to learn that "objectivism" in practice is essentially another name for conservatism. (Cue Hayek, "Conservatism is only as good as that which it conserves".)

 

I take it you imagine you are able to reject points by branding them as "talking points". Yes, they are points, written down in language, which makes them talking points. It would probably be more helpful to post something that engages your and my brain, or is not essentially a throwaway ad hominem comment...

Pointing out that you're repeating the same exact, previously answered claims over and over again, isn't ad hominem.

If you want detailed responses to the talking points you've repeated in this thread, use the search function. There are threads about both global warming alarmism and the accusation that Objectivism is not a unique or rational philosophical system, and they do address your claims with evidence and arguments.

But if instead you just wish to go around making false claims and insulting Objectivism, you'll be ridiculed and I suspect eventually banned.

Edited by Nicky
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... why science is so consistently and quickly rejected in the face of such contradictions.... [by 'Objectivists']

ironic that you would make an absurd hasty generalization like this, in order to make an ideological/psychological point, when trying to criticize others for doing so.
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I searched for "Mann lawsuit" and various flavors of "global warming defamation" and find no other threads on this. Please explain how my post above is "repeating the same exact, previously answered claims".

Your list of talking points isn't about the lawsuit or defamation, it's the same talking points every global warming alarmists says everywhere. So search for that.
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ironic that you would make an absurd hasty generalization like this, in order to make an ideological/psychological point, when trying to criticize others for doing so.

 

Well, that's what I see. I characterize the relentless (poorly supported) accusations of scientific fraud and critiques of the scientific process (being corrupt, incompetent or biased toward "socialism" or against traditional beliefs etc.) as anti-science, in a very historically traditional sort of way. I understand some feel they are being consistent with rationality in rejecting that process on these grounds, but the lack of rigor and skepticism in evaluating claims of scientific fraud and bias seems to me to give the game away. The threads on this site are rife with it, from what I've seen.

 

I notice that you are not trying to claim the corrections I have offered in both this and the "scientists stuck in the ice" thread are factually incorrect, just that you don't like me characterizing this obvious pattern of misrepresentation against scientists as part of an anti-science philosophical posture.

 

 

Your list of talking points isn't about the lawsuit or defamation, it's the same talking points every global warming alarmists says everywhere. So search for that.

 

I didn't provide a "list", then. I cited the Pages 2K climate reconstruction. The other threads on hockey stick appear old and mostly overrun with the sort of stuff I refer to above here. I replied to this poster on this thread, about the Mann defamation suit. Maybe you need to re-read my post.

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Well, that's what I see... ...

that you don't like me characterizing this obvious pattern of misrepresentation against scientists as part of an anti-science philosophical posture.

Instead of conceding the obvious: i.e., that you were using hyperbole, you double down. Not sure how you expect to be taken seriously.

No, I didn't answer your point about the hockey-stick. Can I take you seriously if you use such obviously hyperbolic polemic?

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"Serious" people don't challenge unjustified attacks on scientists, apparently. :)

 

You can't take me seriously.

You're evading by changing the topic. You made a very clear claim that Objectivists "... consistently and quickly [reject] science... "

 

Do you now concede that your claim is totally false?

 

You might consider this incidental to the thread, and your responses seem to indicate that you do not wish to  understand the position of your opponents. In fact, if you understand why your claim is totally false, you'll be well on your way to understanding why your concrete position is on such shaky ground.

Edited by softwareNerd
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You're evading by changing the topic. You made a very clear claim that Objectivists "... consistently and quickly [reject] science... "

 

Do you now concede that your claim is totally false?

 

 

If that is the nexus of your ire, I am happy to clarify. *In general* I find that when ideology (of *any* stripe) encounters scientific conclusions it does not like, ideology wins. In fact, I think there's a fair bit of psychology research that supports this. I find that fascinating. (No, I do not assume I am immune, but I will say that I essentially define my personal philosophy as striving to do so. Which brings me to "hostile territory" to listen and observe...) And so I state I am interested in the intersection of that problem with Objectivism specifically (which claims objectivity in its very name!) I was not intending to state some strong opinion on Objectivism specifically, although I see how you read it that way. In fairness it *is* the impression judging from climate science threads (which are likely to provide the sharpest test of this, given it involves negative externalities on such a scale.)

 

Please proceed to explain why my concrete position is on shaky ground, and why I should not read anything positional or philosophical into the eagerness with which many seem to jump on board unsupported or clearly misrepresented accusations of scientific fraud or incompetence.

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*In general* I find that when ideology (of *any* stripe) encounters scientific conclusions it does not like,... ...

So, are you now saying that when Objectivist encounter scientific claims that are not yet settled among top scientists, they tend toward believing the ones whose claims would, if true, mean less government intervention?

Therefore, do you concede that your previous claim that Objectivists "... consistently and quickly [reject] science... is totally false?

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I just clarified the comment, yet you re-quote it again grafting Objectivists outside the quote to try to assert a more offensive meaning to you, because you are obviously being defensive. I don't retract the statement. The enthusiasm for misrepresenting the state of science and what scientists have said or done is an issue, in my mind. I don't see a lot of signs of reasoned support for what is merely a minority view in science, but it's helpful to understand that that's how you see it and I'll keep looking for them.

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I just clarified the comment, yet you re-quote it again grafting Objectivists outside the quote to try to assert a more offensive meaning to you, ... ...

Your first clarification consists of saying that everyone does this and that you too are not immune. But, that is still untrue.

Your second clarification consists of saying that this happens only when there is an actual conflict between ideology and scientific conclusion.

This is hardly a clarification, but completely different statement from your original statement about quickly rejecting science. What is "science"? What are its concrete contents, that are relevant to the statement that XYZ-group "quickly rejects science"? I submit that from a lay-person's perspective, one should consider all of high-school level science as the basic foundation. I can hardly think of any serious part of this that is rejected by any group, with the one exception of the creationists. If you extend science to include other fields of knowledge, you will start to find people rejecting some ideas in economics, philosophy, psychology, etc.... even at the level of what is taught at high-school. However, if you take these areas, you will find that -- unlike creationism -- there is a significant group of scientists who disagree with the majorities. Not some tiny little majority working in a few ideologically-oriented think-tanks, but people with Phds. and tenure in respected universities.

So, it is clear that -- with the exception of creationism -- the notion that Group XYZ "quickly rejects science" is bogus. In fact, even in the case of creationists, many of them actually accept huge swarths of science.

Despite the obvious falseness of your statement, and despite your own attempt to limit it later, you still do not retract it as being obviously false?

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Waxliberty,

 

I could be wrong, but It is my understanding is that, in so far as Stein has claimed Mann is a fraud, it was with respect to how Mann characterized the results of the investigations into his behavior - not Mann's scientific work. In other words, Stein asserts that the investigations failed to find evidence of unethical behavior, but Mann said that they "completely vindicated" him (or something like that). Those are different things, and if Mann makes deceptive statements about that he can be considered, in some sense, a fraud. From what I understand, the problem with Mann's tree-ring hockey stick is that he cherry-picked the tree species. But this data can't possibly be used conclusively indict or vindicate Mann, because he won't release the complete set of data he gathered. 

Edited by FeatherFall
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@wax,

 

I find it amusing that, in the same post, you make these statements:

 

"....questions of science that force a choice between political ideology and scientific reasoning, and the reasons why science is so consistently and quickly rejected in the face of such contradictions..."

 

and

 

"....I was young, and essentially disappointed to learn that "objectivism" in practice is essentially another name for conservatism."

 

 

So you rejected Objectivism because it conflicted with your young, pre-held, anti-conservative political ideological bias?  lol  You didn't reject it because you disagreed with Objectivism's stance on the contextual nature of essence?  Or because of it's position on universals or induction or concept formation or the validity of the senses?  Or how it applies these positions to political and economic ends?  But rather, because it didn't conform to your pre-held political ideology?

 

 

And we're ideologically driven?

Edited by New Buddha
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This is hardly a clarification, but completely different statement from your original statement about quickly rejecting science. What is "science"? 

 

I expect you understand what I think pretty well.

 

In “the reasons why science is so consistently and quickly rejected in the face of such contradictions” I mean “the science provoking the conflict with world view and ideology”, not “everything having to do with capital-s science”. But the one tends to lead to the other in practice. I raised the specter of ideology and you've bitten down, so I’ll “double down” further in the hopes the point of view is explicit.

 

The fact that people accept “huge swaths of science” when and where it does not challenge core world views is not at issue. My statement was about "questions of science that force a choice between political ideology and scientific reasoning" and more generally with cultural elements and the attitude/backlash toward science as a method and an institution, and the role it plays in society and in how we construct objective shared understanding of the world.

 

I fully believe that science necessarily challenges world views over time as it makes discoveries, and you can view one vein of history (certainly since the Renaissance) as a long running conflict between science and entrenched views and interests into which the modern debates of evolution and global warming fit quite seamlessly. These issues generate backlashes, with common features over time – attacks on scientists as a class and universities as institutions, attacks on scientific methodology (“it’s just a theory”, arbitrary demands of “proof”, etc.), a slew of disinformation and alternate viewpoints steeped in cherry picking, conspiracy theories, misrepresentation and urban legends.

 

To win the war it is practical to tear down the role of science and scientists in society to the degree possible. Plenty of articles (and books) explore the impact of the war on global warming on perception of science in general, finding the association you would expect, which I’m sure many may not like but e.g. (from here):

 

“In light of how conservative and non-conservative media construct images of scientists, these discrepant sources are likely to have unique effects on public trust in scientists. Consistent with this expectation, Krosnick and MacInnis (2010) found that exposure to Fox News was associated with lower levels of trust in what scientists say about the environment, while exposure to news sources other than Fox was associated with higher levels of trust”

 

In real science, trust is not actually the focus, no research is “trusted” on face value – this concept is obviated by the intentional focus on reproducibility. In anti-science, you obsess over accusations of untrustworthiness, to win the public relations war. Scientists are “leeches” and “grant moochers” whose interests are misaligned with yours. And if there is even one (among thousands) with some credentials or standing who is “one of us” and disagrees, the distrust is celebrated as justified.

 

And so enter the fringe scientific dissenters, the basis of your ability to argue it is merely a question of “scientific claims that are not yet settled among top scientists”. The likes of Spencer and Lindzen, turning up again and again among the experts invited to the media, keynoting Heartland Institute conferences. Roy Spencer, “the official climatologist of the Rush Limbaugh show”, is a creationist, highlighting the commonality, signing his name to evangelical positions on global warming that claim “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting”. He frames his role as a scientist in explicitly ideological terms: “I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism. I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.” He is not the example that proves there are “scientific claims that are not yet settled among top scientists”, he is the poster child of the backlash itself. Lindzen is of similar profile, pro-evangelical employee of the Heartland Institute, previously partisan against the science of the cigarette-cancer connection, writes long essays about the corrupt nature of scientific institutions, posits theories of powerful (but undetectable) negative feedbacks that promote a self-regulating view of climate, which strongly contradict prevailing understanding of the mechanics of climate shifts in paleoclimate, etc.

 

Yes, outrageous observations. No, I don’t highlight to condemn or reject their work on a priori or ad hominem basis, they are scientists and their work should be evaluated wholly independently of their views, that’s how science works. And it has been. But their fringe minority views have received orders of magnitude more attention in media and policy circles than merited relative to the usual standards of success in science (“productive”, reproducible, degree of explanatory power, etc).

 

Their existence is inevitable in a sense; the role they play is something you could predict before the entire conflict plays out. They are the rock that provides the foundation for the broader anti-scientific backlash, which can now be framed as a dispute within science, not a fundamentally anti-science impulse at all.

 

I’m sure this all sounds hopelessly strident and unjust in its associations. But what article are we commenting on? Global warming may well be the scientific issue of the century, and hence the source of the most vicious attacks on science we’ll see in our generation. Probably the single most significant event, in terms of successfully turning public opinion (as polls attested) against both the specifics of global warming and science as an institution, is climategate, as reheated here. 

 

“Leiserowitz et al. (2010) found that of those Americans who had heard of ‘Climategate’ and followed the story, over half said the stories caused them to have less trust in scientists”

 

And it is itself fraudulent as a claim against science and scientists! It is defensible only on conspiracy theory grounds - that scientific investigations from different agencies and countries are all whitewashing “one of their own”. Fact check here. Its canon is built of misrepresentations. One of the U.S. reports emphasized that it is the climategate *accusers* who "routinely misunderstood the scientific issues", “resorted to hyperbole", and "often cherry-pick language that creates the suggestion or appearance of impropriety, without looking deeper into the issues." And the whole thing scientifically moot relative to the repeated reproduction of the results by subsequent research teams.

 

I have no idea how you could look at this controversy and the impact it has had and not fit into the framework described above. The anti-science tone is pervasive in comments and threads (many discussing hockey stick) I’ve seen here so far (e.g., Turney’s antarctic misadventure must be embellished as a “trip to prove the ice is gone” to better slander and undermine scientists, and so on endlessly).

 

What is staggering at this point is the scope of victory. “Scientific consensus” as a concept has been completely invalidated. Literally every scientific organization and professional academy with standing in physical science *in the world*, across disciplines, countries and cultures, endorses mainstream anthropogenic global warming theory (no small feat in science!) and that has become a fact of borderline relevance. There is a lot of work by intellectuals involved in achieving this (elevating “appeal to authority” far beyond its traditional definition as a narrow fallacy, into a form of mortal sin). The repercussions for dealing with the challenges of the coming century seem profound, especially in a wired world of ideologically partitioned spheres of knowledge.

 

To be very clear, I do not at all see this as a “people must admit liberals are right” issue. I don’t see questions of physical science and reality as inherently political, at all. I think it is a mistake for conservatism, libertarianism, and Objectivism collectively [sic] to come to this momentous fork in the road and choose the anti-science path.

 

Savage away.

 

Edited by waxliberty
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Waxliberty,

 

I could be wrong, but It is my understanding is that, in so far as Stein has claimed Mann is a fraud, it was with respect to how Mann characterized the results of the investigations into his behavior - not Mann's scientific work. In other words, Stein asserts that the investigations failed to find evidence of unethical behavior, but Mann said that they "completely vindicated" him (or something like that).

 

Well, judge for yourself. The key Steyn quotes in question are:
 
“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet”
 
“Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change 'hockey-stick' graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus.”
 

 

But this data can't possibly be used conclusively indict or vindicate Mann, because he won't release the complete set of data he gathered. 

 

Just a part of the canon. The MBH [Mann-Bradley-Hughes] data have been publicly available for more than a decade now. (It is common to see critics form sentences that include both the concept of "he won't release his data" and "McIntyre and McKitrick showed that he used improper statistical techniques in his data".)
 
Though his claims are wildly unsupportable, I can see defending Steyn on abstract 1st amendment grounds. The legal case for defamation seems far from clear, though it appears Steyn "has a fool for a client" (if you have followed the case and understand the reference.) I think it’s clear Mann is fighting very aggressively, and broadcasts a sense of persecution. Not without some justification though. Not every scientist is turned into a national pariah and subjected to Kafkaesque interrogation by Congressional committees over his research.
 
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So you rejected Objectivism because it conflicted with your young, pre-held, anti-conservative political ideological bias?  lol  You didn't reject it because you disagreed with Objectivism's stance on the contextual nature of essence?  Or because of it's position on universals or induction or concept formation or the validity of the senses?  Or how it applies these positions to political and economic ends?  But rather, because it didn't conform to your pre-held political ideology?

 

Perhaps, depending on your definition (just not mine). I perceived a conflict with my strident pro-science and pro-reason views at the time (see above :) ). A philosophy that proclaims an a priori bias in favor of the way things have been seemed inherently incompatible to me. (As would a philosophy of "change is always better".)

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A philosophy that proclaims an a priori bias in favor of the way things have been seemed inherently incompatible to me.

O.o

 

Nothing about Objectivism proclaims an a priori bias, or a priori anything.

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