Who is 'Rocket Scientist' David Evans?

Tue, 2008-07-22 14:27Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Who is 'Rocket Scientist' David Evans?

UPDATED: David Evans has sent along his definition of a rocket scientist. See below for details.

This title grabbed our attention: Top Rocket Scientist: No evidence C02 causes global warming. And it should. It is a pretty bold statement and the implications would be pretty big news.

So we decided to compile a backgrounder on 'The Top Rocket Scientist.”

Here's the research database entry on David Evans:

No peer-reviewed articles on climate change

According to his own resume, Evans has not published a single peer-reviewed research paper on the subject of climate change. Evans published only a single paper in 1987 in his career and it is unrelated to climate change.

Evans has published an article for the Alabama-based Ludwig von Mises Instutute, a right-wing free-market think tank.

Evans also published a “background briefing” (pdf) document for the Australian chapter of the Lavoisier Group, a global warming “skeptic” organization with close ties to the mining industry.

“I am not a climate modeler”

From 1999 to 2006 Evans worked for the Australian Greenhouse Office designing a carbon accounting system that is used by the Australian Government to calculate its land-use carbon accounts for the Kyoto Protocol. While Evans says (pdf) that “[he] know[s] a heck of a lot about modeling and computers,” he states clearly that he is “not a climate modeler.”

Background

David Evans lives in Australia and gained media attention after an article he wrote titled, No Smoking Hot Spot was published in The Australian in June, 2008.The article claims that climate change is not caused by C02 emissions because there is no evidence of “a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics.” Evan's claim has been thoroughly debunked by Tim Lambert, a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales.

According to his bio, Evans claims to be a 'Rocket Scientist' and one article claims that he is a 'Top Rocket Scientist.' While Evans background does show that he has a PhD in electrical engineering, there is no evidence that he was ever employed as a rocket scientist.

Evans answered our inquiry about his claim to being a rocket scientist with the following explanation:

In US academic and industry parlance, “rocket scientist” means anyone who has completed a PhD in one of the hard sciences at one of the top US institutions. The term arose for people who *could* do rocket science, not those who literally build rockets.Thus the term “rocket scientist” means someone with a PhD in physics, electrical engineering, or mathematics (or perhaps a couple of other closely related disciplines), from MIT, Stanford, Caltech, and maybe a few other institutions.

I did a PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford in the 1980s. Electrical engineering is your basic high tech degree, because most high technology spawned from electrical information technology. I specialized in signal processing, maths, and statistics.

The definition provided by Evans would appear to be at odds with the conventional use of the term 'rocket scientist' which according to various sources is “One specializing in the science or study of rockets and their design.” For example, here's an entry on Answers.com about Hermann Oberth a famous Rocket Scientist who published a book about rocket travel into outer space in 1932 and is considered one of 3 founding fathers of modern rocketry and astronautics.

Evans also claims to be “building a word processor for Windows.” DeSmogBlog contacted Microsoft Corp. and they have confirmed that he does not work for Microsoft Corporation.


For a more in-depth look, check out DeSmog's comprehensive research database on the climate denial industry.

Previous Comments

Here is a blog post on the global warming bet between Brian Schmidt and David Evans.

http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/2007/04/new-global-warming-bet-for-7-10.html

The original discussion on the real AGW “signature” (tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling) is at Real Climate.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/12/tropical-troposphere-trends/

By the way, the mistaken claim about the missing AGW “signature” tropical hotspot is one of the last refuges of the skeptics. See for example the SourceWatch critique of the Fraser Intitute ISPM:

http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ISPM#Errors_and_discrepancies

Do you really wish to attempt to besmirch every reputable person who does not agree with your views? Do you believe doing so is a sound way to advance knowledge? Can you not put forth even crude arguments counter to the points he is making…

Tim Lambert has and good for him.

The Point of this article is to get an idea of who David Evans really is, as opposed to who he claims to be. It is not the point of this article to counter Evan’s arguments.

Desmog is a smear site. It all they do.
Desperation is now clear at the house of cards collapses.

Get used to it.

And where is the smear here?

Evans has provided us with his definition of a ‘rocket scientist’ and I have added it to the article.

Nothing more. The only thing he has revealed that is true is that his ego is a little on the vast side.

Looks like Evans’ main contribution has been to write scientifically clueless editorials.

Bravo. Glad he put his ph.d. to such constructive use.

Such an obvious provocateur, now that we know a bit more about him. Yawn.

JTK

1) David Evans’ background is clearly written in:
http://www.sciencespeak.com/DavidEvans.doc

Looking at that description, I’d call him a mathematician and software engineer, in which case labeling him a “top rocket scientist” is really weird, both for “top” and “rocket scientist”.

Maybe he is a “top Fourier analysis expert”. It’s hard to assess the impact of a book he’s been writing since 1990, so he might be an author. Maybe if it’s ever published people can evaluate that.

2) His use of the term “rocket scientist” is ludicrous. I don’t understand why he just doesn’t say “consultant and software engineer” or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with that.

a) There are people who really can be called rocket scientists. I’ve worked with some [i.e., like NASA, which really does employ people legitimately called rocket scientists, although they more likely call themselves aerospace engineers, or other titles.]

b) A certain set of computational folks on Wall Street have sometimes been called “rocket scientists”. Some came from my old employer, Bell Labs. No one in Bell Labs called anyone else there rocket scientists - at least, in 10 years there, I never heard that even once. Actually, we never called anyone “Doctor”, because that gets old. I rather doubt anyone on Wall Street would have put “rocket scientist” as their job description.

c) Used colloquially, somebody smart and technical (but not a)) might be referred to by the term “rocket scientist”, but rarely by other people who are equally smart and technical.

Stanford EE / CS PhDs in general do not call themselves rocket scientists. I suspect I know rather more of them, longer, than David.

I’ve lived within 5 miles of Stanford for 25 years,
worked 15 years for for two spinoff companies from there, helped organize the Hot Chips conference at Stanford for 20 years, still give occasional invited lectures there, and have worked with many EE/CS people from there, some of whom are legitimately “top”.

Real top people use business cards that say things like:

President
CTO
VP Engineering
Chief Scientist
Fellow
or maybe just Consultant (usually after retiring from the above)
etc

not
“Rocket scientist”.

That’s very out-of-touch, or something else, but it certainly can be misleading to the unwary.

Re: Rocket scientists
Poor humorless warmists. I suppose that your dour outlook is fitting for those whose raison d’etre is preaching cataclysm and catastrophe. You should get a life, Kevin.

We live in democratic systems where it matters how the crowd is influenced. So, when anyone wonders why it is that clowns such as this David Evans are taken seriously enough that DeSmogBlog believes it necessary to confront and refute them, consider this:

A threat to civilization exists it has yet to act on, and scientists are now taking a lead. Compared to all those who say there is doubt, or that the problem doesn’t exist, or that everyone is mistaken, the prestige of the best, most distinguished scientific organizations in existence has been put forward:

All the following scientific organizations presented a joint statement, called the Joint Science Academies’ Statement, to each head of government who attended, and to the host Prime Minister of Japan, at the G8 recently:

National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,
Science Council of Japan,
Deutshe Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina Germany,
Royal Society of the United Kingdom,
Chinese Academy of Sciences,
Russian Academy of Sciences,
Indian National Science Academy India,
Academie des Sciences France,
Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei Italy,
Royal Society of Canada,
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias Mexico,
Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias, Brazil, and the
Academy of Science of South Africa

The statement called out to all world leaders that they “limit the threat of climate change” by taking “prompt action”, which was stated as limiting emissions of “greenhouse gases” “to the net absorption capacity of the earth” It is here:
http://www.nationalacademies.org/includes/climatechangestatement.pdf

In, duh, other words, climate change is reality, it threatens significant impacts, and they are urgently calling on civilization to do something about it, as it is getting very late.

We can count on the global warming “deniers” not to be able to fit a statement like this into their minds. The best science is what this is.

In addition, James Hansen, named by the President of the National Academy of Sciences as the single scientist he would single out as the best (although he says there are three or so who would share very similar and widespread recognition for doing absolutely top flight work), is warning things have moved along since the giant thousands strong international committee signed off on what is known as the IPCC report. Hansen is saying he is stunned to find things are worse than they all thought. Paul Crutzen isn’t talking to the media. He says he put it all in his paper. Its getting hard to read this stuff. Crutzen holds the Nobel Prize, not one of the ones they handed out to all members of the IPCC or to Al Gore, however deserving those might be. Crutzen’s is for his vital contribution to ozone science. Crutzen has given his imprimatur to legitimize research into emergency plans to stabilize the planetary temperature by artificial means such as simulating a constantly emitting large volcano to inject sulphur into the stratosphere to deflect a few % of solar radiation away from the planet in order to buy time for a civilization that, to his despair, has not awakened to the peril it is in, if that civilization at any point happens to wake up and want to take this issue on.

By the time you have a group as august in stature as this, calling in good faith for action with as far reaching impacts as this, on a threat with this significance, the idea that the global warming “deniers” have any credibility is beyond a preposterous joke.

They seem like insects in a science fiction horror movie crawling over everything bent on mindless destruction.

Everyone interested in seeing appropriate action on this issue has to take the problem of what is at best contrarian, and at worst, something like what the tobacco manufacturers got into, more seriously than one might think at first glance because although global warming is now on the agenda of all governments in the world that matter, they can’t act until their citizens are more unified that action is necessary. The problem is too big to take on without the kind of unity found before only in war.

Twenty years ago, the scientific descriptions of the problem were substantially the same as they are now, but today there is a stark difference, The scientists are calling for perhaps impossible speed, as they can see that whatever the cause, civilization simply has not acted as any sane person would have on this and it is getting very late.

well if all these individuals say it is so the world must be flat!

..Gary?

Your comments to the effect that the Mises Institute is a right-wing think tank are deceitful. It is a Libertarian website with unabashed support for what unarguably works: free-markets. Furthermore, have you given consideration to better qualified doubters of the so-called global warming hysteria rather than Evans? Finally, I don’t see you countering Evans’ arguments but rather sidestepping them by trying to discredit his credentials in the field. What’s next, a critique of Julian Simon’s succesful attacks against past “scientific” blunders because he was an economist?

We’d behappy to see your list.

Amazing isn’t it how David Evans’ credentials were never dissected when he was in the climate alarmist camp. But let him utter a heresy and the warmies sets the hounds on him. Have Desmoggers ever considered issuing fatwas?

Evans was not part of the debate before he burst onto the scene as a “rocket scientist”. If anyone truly believes he was ever in the so-called “alarmist camp”, could they please please supply evidence of it - a blog entry, a letter to the editor, anything? No? Nothing? Oh well. I thought so.

The moral of this story is that if you don’t have the expertise or the experience, don’t pretend you do, because you’ll look like a goose when it’s pointed out.

In this day and age it is SOP to demonize the messenger instead of addressing the message.

I know of many inquisitive, level headed, non credited individuals with excellent research abilities that I would believe when it comes to the issue of climate change than someone like Al Gore who is agenda driven.

What’s your issue Kevin Grandia? And why do you feel that you must discredit the person instead of offering a substantive opposing argument?

It shouldn’t matter if the guy was a burger flipper if he has a good argument, you troll.

This is not a case of Kevin trying to undermine an argument by attacking its proponent. Evans doesn’t have an argument - at least, he is not making a case based on evidence.

If he really was a burger flipper (and weren’t we all, at some point?) and he came up with an important and compelling evidence-based point, that would be peachy. But Evans is asking that we accept his judgment on climate change on the basis of his authority - on the credibility that we might accord to “rocket scientists.”

So he says, “You should listen to me because I am a top rocket scientist.” And Kevin reads the guy’s unimpressive resume and says, “Ah, no you’re not. And if you’re lying about the rocket scientist thing, why should we listen to any other thing that you’re saying?”

That’s a fair question. 

That is one of the funniest, in the “guffaw-and-spit-coffee-on-the-screen” sense definitions that I have ever seen in science or engineering:

“rocket scientist means anyone who has completed a PhD in one of the hard sciences at one of the top US institutions”

how writing a word processing program contributes to one’s status as a “top rocket scientist,” or in any way qualifies one to claim authority in the field of climate science. It’s a legitimate question, n’est-ce pas?

Fern Mackenzie

DeSMogBlog is not particularly targeted at detailed technical debunking of silly pronouncements. Why should it attempt to duplicate the work of other sites that already do that well?

Among the sites I’d recommend for such analysis, at least for those with some scientific literacy are a small sample:
Deltoid, Rabett Run, Open Mind, and RealClimate, with Skeptical Science as a nice general resource.

Tim Lambert is Australian, and hence watches the Oz scene closer than most here in US or Canada. Here is a week-ago debunk of Evans’ latest, including a pointer to a June 2007 piece at Lavoisier Group:
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/07/the_australians_war_on_science_16.php

John Cook is also Australian, and his site is different:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

This is a compendium of favorite, long-debunked arguments that get used over and over. For each argument there is a page that:
- explains the argument
- explains why it’s wrong
- gives references to peer-reviewed articles in credible journals
- gives examples of people using the argument

Hence, it is a nice reference, as opposed to an immediate specific response, but it doesn’t get updated quite so often, and it doesn’t every *every* new argument … although most dumb arguments get repeated endlessly, even if the science was known 20 years ago.

In 5 minutes there, I found most of Evans’ comments covered:
#32 empirical
#30 troposphere
#19 uhi
#10 co2lag

Remember, that’s a blog, but each article references real science articles, unlike Evans. His Lavoisier piece has similar stuff.

RealClimate covered one of the topics in May, and last December: apparently even the topic takes a while for Evans to notice it, as leading-edge denialists were talking about it last year:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/tropical-tropopshere-ii/langswitch_lang/sp
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/12/tropical-troposphere-trends/

====
So, if someone can’t get even the most minimal basics of climate science right, why would one listen to anything he says? How often does someone have to be wrong about 2+2 = 4 before you stop listening?

The only reason for me for even looking at this is a hobby project of studying people who:

- Go off into fervent belief in pseudoscience
- Are sure they know more than top-notch scientists who spend their lives doing this, although they themselves do not
- Pontificate in OpEds, letters to editors, white papers , websites, E&E … but not peer-reviewed science journals
- but have reasonable technical backgrounds
- and so should be able to study and learn the science
- and ought to know better
- and isn’t one of those scientists at end of career going off the rails into a field outside their own
- and in this case, a reference to Stanford EE degree

That is, if someone poorly-educated believes silly things, it’s no surprise, but I have psychologist friends that help me understand odd behavior patterns :-), who long ago pointed me at the Dunning-Kruger Effect as a useful explanation.

Rob…if you shake your head do loose parts roll out your ears?

How is not working for Microsoft relevant? Lots of people write Windows software who don’t work for Microsoft. You know, like everyone who isn’t developing *nix or Mac software.

The commenters are right…when data contradicts models, trust the top scientists who say the models must be right and that any other scientists in their field who disagree are merely engaging in pseudo-science.

Science, welcome to the postmodern age. It was nice knowin’ ya.

Even if his background is legit then where is his proof to support his opinions. Everybody has an opinion. nothing wrong with that. I just want to see peer reviewed articles on his work that has been accepted by the science community. Being a consultant doesn’t mean $hit. Idiot think tanks in washington DC are consultants and look at the mess they’ve turned this country into.

If he is so definitive about CO2 not being the cause then what is the cause? Why say global warming is a scam with no evidence to back up your theories as to why the poles are melting so quickly and why storms are changing their directions and intensity?

I’m all for hard facts, and I certainly believe that to get the US economy moving again banks, corporation and the gov’t will push a green agenda to create the next economic bubble.

Although the idea of Global warming and Climate change seems to make sense , I’m a little concerned about a theory being put forth as fact. If it is a fact, then why are there so many who disagree?
I think we could all benefit from a televised open debate on this topic. Line up the experts on both sides and let them go at it. Let us, the public, make up our own minds based on how convincing either side makes it’s case. The debate must remain on-topic, focusing on scientific fact, and intellectual thought, and not on demonizing the other’s belief.

I think we could all learn something.

“The debate must remain on-topic, focusing on scientific fact, and intellectual thought”

If that’s what you want then here it is: http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-syr.htm

Andyc:
See Naomi Oreskes’ “The American Denial of Global Warming”:
http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.asp?showID=13459

The first half is the 100-year long development of the strong consensus around the general idea of AGW, good enough to convince George H. W. Bush in 1989:

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=17765

The second half tells how some retired cold-war physicists tried, successfully, to cause confusion, using tactics well-honed in the cigarette wars, avoiding peer-reviewed science in favor of OpEds, letters-to-editor, whitepapers, etc.

Real science isn’t done in debates, among other things because it’s too easy to throw up masses of plausible-sounding wrong things, and it takes way more time to explain why they are wrong.

As a good analogy, regarding cigarettes, in 1964 “The Surgeon General has determined …”, but cigarettes are still legally sold.

Many people over 30 only smoke because they got addicted when they were 12-18, because that’s when brain development makes it easiest to “write” for addiction:
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/teenagers/dn4163-teen-brain-changes-increase-cigarette-addiction.html

Tobacco companies know this, hence things like “Twista lime” are still around. Anyone who was 12 in 1964 is ~56 now. That means that most current smokers (in US) started smoking when they were kids, *after* smoking was found to strongly increase the likelihood of disease. The science was already clear in 1964. A lot of the evidence, for humans, cannot be done in labs, and is from epidemiological statistics.

Nevertheless, the exact biochemical mechanisms by which tobacco smoke (very complex chemically) causes illness are often far less well understood … than the physics and chemistry of AGW.

The evidence is compelling in both cases, just different. That for AGW was already good enough in 1989, and it’s better now.

Debating AGW science now is like debating cigarette goodness. Policy is still fair game, but the science is certainly good enough to know action is needed, even if scientists don’t know everything … just like they don’t know everything about cigarette smoke.

Kevin questions David Evans credentials. Meanwhile this is the authors published bio

Kevin Grandia has been trained by Al Gore as part of The Climate Project, an initiative designed to educate the public about climate change.

sometimes you just gotta laugh at the irony.

By appearances in the pic Gore taught Kevin the finer thrills of a large appetite as well as climate change alarmism.

A moment ago I read a posting that said “Line up the experts on both sides and let them go at it.” They already have! Have you been sleeping for the last three or four decades?

The scientific community has united, and includes vast numbers of scientists who were strongly opposed to those who recognized global warming as having devastating effects on all life on Earth, on all economies of the world, on all population centers and coasts of the world, on the very ecosystem we ALL depend on.

The time for debate is long past. As potent as fossil fuels are (and they rightfully will never be completely out of the picture), the time for shifting from a fossil fuel-based economy (as we did from a “hay and coal” based economy) HAS come.

David Evans was selected by Lavoisier intentionally because he had been active (on some level) with the scientific community in the scientific explorations of global warming in Australia. Illegitimate “Authority by Association” you might call it.

Let’s all divert our personal energies BACK to what matters (helping develop the coming green economies, reducing our eco-footprints, and living healthier lives), AWAY from the guys/gals who want to continue “hitching their team” to oil and burying their heads in the oil sands when they get home.

Tom Neff, KC, MO, USA

Okay you yanks, listen up.
Education time from an Aussie.
Over here a person would refer to themselves as a Rocket Scientist in a self-deprecating way. The term infers you really mean the opposite.
In other words IT WAS A JOKE !!!
So either grow a sense of humour or stop writing critiques about literature in a language you obviously don’t understand.
You lot are hilarious.

I’m an aussie too, and anyone going around calling themselves a bloody rocket scientist would be considered an asshole and roundly ignored. Stop bullshitting to people

Teeto

Good onya mate

And Tim Lambert of UNSW should have a talk with Prof Tim Lambert of Uni of Sydney who I’m sure has the skill and training to sort him out.

“Over here a person would refer to themselves as a Rocket Scientist in a self-deprecating way. The term infers you really mean the opposite.
In other words IT WAS A JOKE !!!”

Pull the other one, mate. He wanted everyone to believe he’s better-credentialled than he really is.

Evans was obviously trying to fluff up his CV and succeeded in getting a lot of airplay by doing it.

Your comment makes us Aussies look even sillier than Rudd’s weak carbon policy does.

If Evans had said he’d worked as a computer programmer and had no experience or expertise as a climate scientist, and was never actually an “alarmist”, he would have been ignored.

As he should have been.

No… its believing everything you are told and contemplating shooting camels because of it that makes you look like an idiot!

Ding! Thank you for playing.

wow, this article is a joke and does nothing to refute what Evans is saying. First Keynesianism and then global warming, the house of cards is indeed on it’s way down and revealing that there are a lot of suckers out there that just don’t want to let go of their past beliefs-despite mountains of evidence. It is sad that their egos won’t let them see the truth.

You really should delete the last sentence:
“Evans also claims to be “building a word processor for Windows.” DeSmogBlog contacted Microsoft Corp. and they have confirmed that he does not work for Microsoft Corporation.”

You DO NOT have to work directly for Microsoft Corp. to develop software for Windows. This is really overreaching and a puerile statement.

I totally agree. The fact that he claims to work on Microsoft software has nothing to do with working for Microsoft.

Also, a rocket scientist is BELOW a PhD in electrical engineering. He has more than enough undergraduate and masters degrees to do whatever the hell he wants in physics. You can call yourself a rocket scientist after taking a general physics series to be honest.

word processing program, and there is a similar freeware version developed by another company. I guess maybe the word processing software is as valid as the rocket scientist title, and neither is making much money.

Am I the only one that sees the irony in a blog article that questions the credentials of David Evans (electrical engineer) to opine on climate change issues, and then links to an article by Tim Lambert (computer scientist)? How is that the computer scientist is somehow more qualified to debunk the statements of the electrical engineer?

And if one is disqualfied from criticizing the climate change orthodoxy for the lack of being an experienced “climate modeler”, then why doesnt this same lack of experience disqualify someone from being an expert on the subject of climate change (e.g. Al Gore)?

There is nothing “right-wing” about The Mises Institute. Do some research please. Free market does not equal right wing. The right-wing nutz would not know a free market from a hole in the ground.

“Evans also claims to be “building a word processor for Windows.” DeSmogBlog contacted Microsoft Corp. and they have confirmed that he does not work for Microsoft Corporation.”

You really should think before you type. The vast majority of developers that build software for Windows DO NOT work for Microsoft. You should try harder to discredit someone. All you did was make yourself look like an ass.

Kevin Grandia spends a lot of time saying that Evans is not a rocket scientist and that his degrees are not relative to the climate change discussion and he is not a “climate modeler”. He then uses a COMPUTER SCIENCE person to debunk Evan’s claims. So you used a person with no climate credentials to debunk someone else you say has no climate credentials?!?!?!?!

and you people wonder why there are still skeptics out there!

David Evans consulted full-time for the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change) from 1999 to 2005, and part-time 2008 to 2010, modelling Australia’s carbon in plants, debris, mulch, soils, and forestry and agricultural products. He is a mathematician and engineer, with six university degrees, including a PhD from Stanford University in electrical engineering.

http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/04/07/climate-models-go-cold/

He dropped “accounting”. Accounting – as in how much – are we producing so it now reads as if he was actually doing climate modeling (which is bunk from all the information I’ve seen).