The Heartland Institute: Undermining Science in the Name of the "Scientific Method"

Mon, 2011-05-23 04:22Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

The Heartland Institute: Undermining Science in the Name of the "Scientific Method"

I must confess, I’m less and less motivated these days to write posts debunking climate change skeptics and deniers. Their minds don’t change, and fighting over climate science may just make us polarized—especially since mounting evidence suggests the climate divide is really more about values than science to begin with, and science is simply the preferred weapon in a clash over different views of how society (and especially the relationship between the government and the market) should be structured.

Sometimes, though, you just can’t resist blasting away. This is one of those times.

The Heartland Institute is having yet another conference to undermine climate science, and this time, they are flying it under this banner: “Restoring the Scientific Method.” It’s like they think they are now Francis Bacon (at left) or something. Here’s how they describe the conference, which will be set in Washington, D.C., at the end of June: 

The theme of the conference, “Restoring the Scientific Method,” acknowledges the fact that claims of scientific certainty and predictions of climate catastrophes are based on “post-normal science,” which substitutes claims of consensus for the scientific method. This choice has had terrible consequences for science and society. Abandoning the scientific method led to the “Climategate” scandal and the errors and abuses of peer review by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The scientists speaking at this conference, and the hundreds more who are expected to attend, are committed to restoring the scientific method. This means abandoning the failed hypothesis of man-made climate change, and using real science and sound economics to improve our understanding of the planet’s ever-changing climate. 

One hardly knows where to begin with this. Heartland gives no account of what it actually means by the “scientific method”–and defining the scientific method is notoriously difficult anyway, as scholars of science studies know all too well. I also am not really sure what Heartland means by “post-normal science,” but their definition does not seem consistent with what the scholars who came up with the concept actually had in mind.

But these are minor matters, merely the sort of things that academics write books about. Set them aside, because it’s obvious where this is all heading.

Heartland is having a conference to define climate change skepticism as the right “science,” and the work of the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences as the “wrong” science, or not science at all. The argument is couched as a matter of scientific methodology, but really, it boils down to “my expert is better than your expert”—along with a good dose of “your expert is biased and corrupt.”

But the thing is, we can tell from this mere snippet that Heartland’s “scientific method” is unreliable. It’s screaming from the page.

If the scientific mindset means anything at all, it means trying to control one’s biases by never being too sure of one’s preconceptions. That’s why Bacon, one of the pioneers of modern science, warned us to be wary of the “idols of the mind“–a series of prejudices that sound a lot like what psychologists now recognize as textbook cognitive biases.

Anyone who can call human-caused global warming a “failed hypothesis” isn’t paying very close attention to Baconian warnings. A very very large number of scientists see it as a very serious “hypothesis” indeed, so calling it “failed” sounds awfully hubristic. 

Meanwhile, Heartland also claims these mainstream scientists are making a claim to “scientific certainty” when they aren’t. Scientific certainty is literally an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. We may try to approach it but we never get there, and the IPCC has never said the science of climate is “certain.”

Heartland is thus misrepresenting its opponents–ironically claiming that they possess “certainty” when really, it’s Heartland that’s willing to blithely to toss aside the idea that humans are causing global warming, despite the weight of expert opinion. If that’s not unwarranted certainty, I don’t know what is.

So yeah, the scientific method is notoriously hard to define–but sometimes we can know it from its absence. If you’re convinced you’re right and the bulk of mainstream scientists, expert bodies, and scientific societies are wrong on climate change…well, you’re not exactly making Francis Bacon proud.

Previous Comments

Have you looked at all the proxies?

The hockey stick is correct:

“What is readily apparent is that this is a very, very noisy signal.”

And scientists know how to get a signal out of the noise. YOU don’t of course, but people who have had an education in this field have.

“The analysis has since been adjusted to show a weak MWP and LIA effect.”

No, the analysis has been adjusted to include more data points globally spaced and the MWP and LIA effects, not being global, reduce in scale.

You just believe because you hope so hard that is the case.

In every other science, including climate science, the inclusion of more data and more robust analysis would be welcomed as showing more closely the truth.

But deniers see this merely as proof of lies because lies come so easily to their lips.

And if it were true? So what?

That merely means that the climate is more sensitive to changes in temperature and we’re laying in far worse (and then catastrophic) climate change by listening to your drivel echoed from someone who has told you what to believe.

“If you are using tree rings as your thermometer, you have to keep using tree rings as you thermometer to the present.”

Absolutely not.
1) Tree rings are proxies. Not thermometers
2) They still used tree rings, just not ones poisoned by industrialised pollution in the northern temperate latitudes from the 60’s when the pollution got so bad we needed clean air laws to clean up
3) They also used ice cores. They used more than bristlecone pines. They used thermometers too.

But go ahead. Ignore the bristlecone pines for the entire record.

“My understanding is that if you do that, the recent warming is much less apparent.”

Guess what you’ll get (they’ve done this): the same answer. Your understanding is worthless because you have a conclusion and nothing will be accepted unless it confirms your desires.

But you hate that idea, don’t you.

Hard to believe anyone would actually admit to believing in and defendint the most throughly discredited fraud in modern Science.

Wow… The ignorance and gaul on this site is truely breathtaking.

Did not think I would see anyone willing to display quite that level of religious FAITH so openly.

Again … WOW

Boy, that sounds a lot like basic wingnuttery. Don’t you even have some made-up talking points to argue with?

the only good advice is:
Look it up yourselves…
sites like this will always take any statement that does not support the Religious doctrines or AGW and Claim they are Debunked.
Of course they are not, but they will smuggly claim it anyway and then pretend the matter is settled.
Therefore I merely suggest you dont take my word or theirs but go find out for yourself.
Its easy to find….
Start by looking up ENSO, AMO and PDO and look at the corrolations with global temps. (Sooooooo much better than the CO2/temp comparrison)
Then look at the CERN experiment data and read how the sun affects the ENSO and proceed from there.
Eventually it will dawn on you… you have been had.

There was a study two years ago that showed conclusively that the more people learned about Climate Change Science the less they worried about it.

The truth is out there….

(out there;not in here)

“sites like this will always take any statement that does not support the Religious doctrines”

Religious doctrine: AGW is wrong. No need for evidence (see the “poptart claim ‘AGW alarmism exists on this site!’” with no evidence forthcoming days later even.

“or AGW

Yup, the AGW claim isn’t a religious doctrine. It’s a consequence of the climate science that explains the past climate best of all in the face of current human activities.

“Start by looking up ENSO, AMO and PDO and look at the corrolations with global temps.”

And you’ll see that the various ups and down on this graph around the red smoothed curve:

are explained by the ENSO, AMO and PDO oscillations but the trend of the red line is 78% explained by CO2.

Also look at the claim the nutjob above made. Where is the energy coming from? If they were heating the planet, the oceans would be cooling.

Go see if you can find a cooling ocean, kids.

Deniers want to make bold claims in the hope that you won’t check.

All you have to do to determine which is most likely to be telling the truth, have a look at the “lies” both sides have said:

Mann: There are problems with using bristlecone pine data for northern latitudes so I took them out.
Jones: I’d rather delete the data than give it to this bugger. (didn’t delete the data, so AT WORST a thought crime, a pre-crime never committed)

“I’m a skeptic”: Not at all skeptical of denialist arguments, though (see the “it’s the PDO” above)
Monckton: I’m a non-voting member of the House of Lords. (HoL: We have no such thing, Moncktons has never been a member of this house)
Wegman: I have done all this work about science. (Plagiarism)
Ian Plimer: The sun is made mostly of iron
Poptart: AGW alarmism exists on this site!
Titas: I’m no denier (refuted by his many statements)
Applegate: The scientists in the 70’s were all saying it was cooling (later changed without murmur to “the media showed us that there was cooling”)
GoFigure: There is no hotspot, AGW is proven false! (the hotspot has been found and it isn’t a fingerprint of AGW)

Look at who lies and who makes the bigger lies with statements you can follow.

And then for statements you can’t, use that knowledge as a guide.

Look for yourself.
Dont take the propganda from this site seriously, it is merely propaganda to support the cult dogma.

They will always claim that CO2 is the only cause because it supports the political agenda and the truth does not.

Denialists always insist that it’s only CO2 that changes the climate.

The IPCC meanwhile has:

But deniers have no leg to stand on, so deny that legs even exist.

What truth?

Where’s the evidence?

Especially for the political agenda.

Or maybe the denialists think that Ronald Reagan was a commie and wanted to hand over the USA to the UN to handle under a New World Order.

Just like Shrub, where the scientists he was the president of still said that AGW was real.

Either the denialidiots are right and it’s all a scam to sell the west to the commies and Shrub and Reagan were in on it, or they’re full of shit.

Occam’s razor would indicate the simplest answer is the true one: he’s full of shit.

you can also look here:

Of course, if you remove the trend, then you can see a cycle and match that to another known climate cycle…

First, let’s examine how McLean et al arrived at their conclusion. They compared both weather balloon (RATPAC) and satellite (UAH) measurements of tropospheric temperature to El Niño activity (SOI). To remove short-term noise, they plotted a 12 month running average of Global Tropospheric Temperature Anomaly (GTTA, the light grey line) and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI, the black line).

The Southern Oscillation Index shows no long term trend while the temperature record shows a long-term warming trend. Consequently, McLean et al found only a weak correlation between temperature and SOI. Next, they applied another filter to the data by subtracting the 12 month running average from the same average 1 year later. —

If you like cliches, you’ll love the above post.

Since the hockey stick paper in 1998, there have been a number of proxy studies analyzing a variety of different sources including corals, stalagmites, tree rings, boreholes and ice cores. They all confirm the original hockey stick conclusion: the 20th century is the warmest in the last 1000 years and that warming was most dramatic after 1920.

Source: “Is the hockey stick broken?” by John Cook, Skeptical Science, July 10, 2010


Thats just embarrassing.


And he’s basically saying “The IPCC is wrong! It’s MUCH WORSE than they say! So neener!”.

Weird psychology from the low end of the bell-curve of intelligence.

Odd take on this issue. I haven’t seen AIT in a while, but did Al Gore not say that CO2 was causing temperature increase in the icecore record? A rather big point, as I recall. This video agrees with the skeptics of that film who said it was the other way around: that temperature in fact drove increases in CO2. You can now dismiss AIT as just entertainment and no one ever took it seriously, but I don’t believe the Nobel Committee gives out prizes for comedy.

While the Medieval Warm Period saw unusually warm temperatures in some regions, globally the planet was cooler than current conditions.

Source: “How does the Medieval Warm Period compare to current global temperatures?” by John Cook, Skeptical Science, Aug 4, 2010 is not a particularly credible source.

In this case, the question is why Mann in his original hockey-stick (northern hemisphere reconstruction) showed no MWP or LIA, which were believed to exist from other sources. JC at refutes this discrepancy by merely referring back to a 2009 Mann paper on his reconstructions, where he continues to claim there was no global MWP. This is just hand waving on JC’s part.

The paper below, oft refuted by Mann and his friends, points out that Mann’s reconstruction is nearly indistinguishable from noise.

Is the National Academy of Sciences a credible source in your opinion?

Well, depends on what they are a “source” of. They are policy makers. I’m sure many people respect them as a source of opinions. Why?

What? It depends on whether they agree with your opinion?

Of course. I tend to form my own opinions unless the matter is inconsequential and I trust the bearer of the opinion. Even then, it’s not my opinion, just a working assumption.

Are you hinting that if the NAS says something is true, it must be?

I remember decades ago when the AAAS came out with a statement on a controversial matter. I won’t give detail here because it would be off-topic and start a flame war I’m sure. But the AAAS announced that one side of this controversy was fact and the other side (the politically disagreeable one) was false. The AAAS would henceforth censor any submission that did not follow that edict. History has a way of revisiting these controversies, so decades from now that “fact” will probably change when the data is overwhelming and the politics irrelevant. But it stands to this day.

To me the controversy was not of great consequence. But I have since put little faith in august scientific bodies deciding truth from falsity based on political necessity.

You’ve never formed your own opinion on anything.

If it had, you wouldn’t have said that the science was saying it would be cooling in the 70’s because you would have checked and seen that 7 out of 77 papers said that it might cool (MIGHT, and that the effect of CO2 might also change the picture) and 70 said it would be warming.

If you formed your own opinions, you would never have spouted that falsehood.

What you DO is read from the skeptics list of denialist mantras.

They can all be seen for the pack of lies they are from here:

Now watch applesauce “form his own opinion” by not reading any of it and refusing to believe because WTFUWT says those arguments are fine.

“ is not a particularly credible source.”

What is then in your eyes? WTFUWT? Nova? Climate audit? Climate depot? Any other right wing echo chamber blogs I missed?

They haven’t yet said why they are not a credible source.

They can’t go all ad-hom since they’ve already mounted one “you can’t ad-hom” tirade.

It’ll be interesting to see what they have that isn’t just “Because they get paid” (which everyone does).

Applegate says he/she puts “little faith in august scientific bodies deciding truth from falsity based on political necessity.”

I prseume that you also put little faith in the pseudo-science poppycock that is being churned out by the Climate Denial Spin Machine created and funded by the fossil fuel industry.

Gee, no political agenda loaded into that question, is there?

I’m sensing you have some received opinions about skeptics.

“Climate Denial Spin Machine created and funded by the fossil fuel industry”? Where would I find such a machine? The world is at once simpler and more complicated than you imagine. You see vast sinister corporate conspiracies, when what you are probably seeing is many people on their own coming to the same opinion, one that you don’t want them to have.

I have never once heard of a skeptical blog being funded by the fossil fuel industry. ( is not a skeptical blog as you know - it should be named On the other hand, many pro-AGW blogs are intertwined with special interest groups who have agendas that AGW will likely help along. Check out the cast of characters responsible for this blog, for example. Skeptic blogs are typically one man shows.

Climate researchers themselves are usually in the pay of governments from whom they can expect additional money if they keep to the AGW line or can expect to loose funding altogether if they stray. If you’ve looked at the climategate emails (and not just heard other people tell you about them) they should make you really uneasy about the integrity of those involved. If the climategate researchers had been in biomedical research and behaved that badly, it would have been an instant end to their careers, prosecution, and heads would have rolled in their institutions for not knowing about it. But they get a pass because they were believers.

No vast conspiracy, just a lot of folks getting onto the bandwagon each for their own reason.

The reason I am here, is because I am baffled by what makes an AGW true-believer. I find the science behind it sloppy and it’s defenders disingenuous. Is it really just the latest left political cause? Is that all there is? Do people give up their intellectual honesty so easily?


Your pious pontificating is so over the top that it brings tears to my eyes. What a hoot!

Climate Fraudit: McIntyre. Ex coal mine CEO, now has a job with the fossil fuel industry.

“”Climate Denial Spin Machine created and funded by the fossil fuel industry”? Where would I find such a machine?”

At Heartland Institute. At the GWPF. At the Cato Institute.

Just for starters.

You’re extremely credulous and completely blind to what you don’t want to know.

“Climate researchers themselves are usually in the pay of governments from whom they can expect additional money if they keep to the AGW

You’re a conspiracy nut.

Have you got any proof? Or is proof not necessary for you when it’s something you hold dear to your heart?

“The reason I am here, is because I am baffled by what makes an AGW true-believer”

No your not. Your here to defend your ideology. For the same reasons I’m baffled by why conservatives & libertarian conservatives like yourself mainly in the USA, Canada & Australia are against AGW, when conservative parties in other countries not hooked like heroin on fossil fuel funding seem to be able to get the science & embrace clean energy. In fact they know it stimulates business & they support all business, not just one business sectors like the conservatives in Australia, Canada & the USA do.

Not a single major scientific institute in the world supports your viewpoint & only a handful of scientists worldwide support your viewpoint. Yet you cling to the possibility that all of them are wrong & your political party & a couple of your right wing blogs are right.

“I find the science behind it sloppy and it’s defenders disingenuous.”

You have flat out refused to look at any of the science & any evidence you have been shown,which you have conveniently ignored. There is no amount of evidence that can be to you that would change your mind, because you are in denial.

“Is it really just the latest left political cause? ”

Didn’t realize the conservatives in Germany, France, the U.K , Denmark & New Zealand who have all implemented a carbon tax plus clean energy schemes…….are now on the left. You just refuse to think don’t you? You are fixated by this denial mantra you must repeat over & over.

“Do people give up their intellectual honesty so easily?”

If they are Libertarians or Conservatives in the USA, Canada or Australia, then yes.

So George W Bush was a commie? Was he, applesauce? After all, the IPCC still said the same thing, even USA-only funded scientists were saying that there was AGW during his time.

And, since the IPCC was set up on Ronnie Reagan’s watch, was HE a communist too, wanting to secede all power to the UN to bring in a Communist New World Order and give all American money to the third world?

I dare you to phone in to Glenn Beck or Bill OReilley and tell them that G W Bush and Ronnie were actually communists.

Here’s Applesauce’s finding on science:

“Applegate. +0; Tue, 2011-05-24 06:47; 50 years ago
Applegate (not verified)

Let’s see, 50 years ago these same underpinnings had them predicting global cooling and imminent glaciation?”

The truth? 77 papers discussing climate change, 70 proposed warming from CO2.

Guess where he got is finding on science (hint: not from the science itself):

He saw it on telly.

We weren’t discussing paper counts.

How did so many people become fans of AGW? (Apparently now more believe in catastrophic AGW than believe in UFOs.) From the MSM. While the AGW posters here may all claim to have been closet climate scientists since before climatology was invented, the rest of the AGW believers got it from the likes of Al Gore and the evening news. And here they flock.

As AGW fans like to point out, the greenhouse effect that underpins AGW has been known for over a century. In the ’70s when it was also known that CO2 was increasing, the MSM emphasis was on cooling because cooling what the trend. The same sort of people who are AGW believers now could well have been global cooling believers then.

And I hope you do know that science is not a democracy. And you don’t judge the validity of a proposition by counting the number of papers that favorably mention it.

But obviously that was wrong since it was “the media said”.

Your ideas about science are bred by your preconceptions and dogma. You certainly never read any of the science you made your opinions about.

The idea that in the 70’s “the science” was saying that we were heading for AGW is 10x more correct than your opinion.

Your opinion seems to be worth extremely little indeed.

“And you don’t judge the validity of a proposition by counting the number of papers that favorably mention it.”

Why? Because you’ll be upset?

Oh, no, I get it: because your list of papers are so pointless that nobody has found any use for them except to obfuscate and lie.

“the rest of the AGW believers got it from the likes of Al Gore and the evening news”

And you got your belief in AGW from the likes of Wegman (criminal), Monckton (liar) and Watts (failure) and the evening news. Either failed scientists or non scientists.

So why is their belief wrong but yours right?

At least they have scientists who have actually produced useful results on their side, whereas you have a bunch of failures and classical scholars (how useful IS latin studies to climate science, by the way?).

Oh, and there are nearly 100x as many scientists on their side compared to yours.

The lunatic fringe in society hold a bigger slice of the population than that!

Because its a legitimate concern for the future of the US. This is not rocket science.


You state that “ is not a particularly credible source.”

What is the basis of your assertion?

the basis of his assertion is that he doesn’t believe AGW is real, therefore any evidence for it is either

a) wrong
b) false
c) incorrect
d) faked

and that any source that says otherwise is wrong too.

It’s his faith, you see.

I’m not going to spoon-feed you.

And, BTW, neither it wikipedia a reliable source, which I see quoted by posters as well. You probably haven’t wondered why pro-AGW claims remain unchallenged on wikipedia. But look at the “view history” tab on such a page. Wiki-bullies do a yeoman’s job of goal tending. I wonder that they have jobs. I read that occasionally they get banned for it, but others loyal to the cause wait in the wings.

So you don’t believe there is anything called a “Cloud Chamber”?

Or did you form that opinion, like so many others of yours by deciding what the answer should be and not reading anything?

Can’t answer, then, huh. Didn’t think you could.


There’s a world of difference between the AAAS(American Association for the Advancement of Science and the NAS(National Acadaemy of Sciences).



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