East Anglia

Douglass and Christy: Bad science; disingenuous commentary

David Douglass and John Christy (inset) are lousy scientists who flee from structured, peer-reviewed debate and then generously misrepresent the facts in opinion pieces published by ideologically driven websites; at least, that’s the inevitable conclusion from an open letter (attached) from Lawrence Livermore National Lab scientist Ben Santer.

Santer is more measured in his language and criticism. He doesn’t call Douglass et al “lousy scientists,” but he points out with great care that their science is lousy. In particular, a paper that they had written in the International Journal of Climatology with B.D. Pearson and S. Fred Singer was flawed by a statistical error so egregious that it should never have seen the light of day.

After a writing team led by Santer ripped the article apart – carefully, methodically – Douglass and Christy howled about imagined censorship and manipulation in scientific publishing, but made no actual effort to respond in the journal in question, preferring to take their complaints to websites where no one would double-check their facts.

Now, they have used the theft of the East Anglia emails to revive their complaints, wondering aloud on the right-wingy website American Thinker about whether there is A Climatology Conspiracy?

Nature takes on stolen emails

There’s a great editorial in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Nature Geo Science that takes on the illegal hacking of emails at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit.

The editorial is behind a firewall, so here’s a few of the main points for those who don’t have a subscription:

Amidst the calls for more caution in communication, it must be remembered that e-mails are an essential scientific tool when research groups span continents and schedules are tight. Yes, there is a limit to what should be put in writing. But in messages that are not meant for the public eye, there must be room for an open-minded and opinionated discussion, for example, of the quality of papers published by other authors. And when writing to someone who is familiar with the context, there is generally no need to choose every word quite so carefully.

And this:

“The alternative — making every private e-mail between scientists unambiguous and fit for public consumption — would seriously hinder the progress of science.”

Ben Santer Savages the CRU Email Thieves

Ben Santer, a climate researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has written a long, but very worthy letter, blasting the thieves who hacked into the East Anglia Univesity’s Climatic Research Unit and defending its erstwhile director, Dr. Phil Jones.

Santer, who has made a global reputation by “mining” historical climate data to advance scientific understanding, says that in the wake of the email thefts, a different kind of mining is currently underway - a form that isn’t interested in advancing science in the least.

“This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones.”

The full letter is reproduced below:

"Climategate" - giving deniers the power to say whatever they want

There’s nothing like a good “second-day” story to absolve the average journalist (very average in this case) from any responsibility to support his contentions with, say, a smattering of evidence.

Admittedly, second-day stories are tough in a paper like the Toronto Sun where space is at a premium. You want to update the reader with the news, but you still have to provide enough of the original story to provide context. Unless you’re Lorrie Goldstein, in which case you can short-cut your way to today’s opinion without making any effort to support it with actual factual references.

In his column today on the “Climategate” story of emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Goldstein offers this as a synopsis of what the purloined emails prove:

“Apparently they (the scientists involved) stifled their own doubts about recent global cooling not explained by their computer models, manipulated data, plotted ways to avoid releasing it under freedom of information laws and attacked fellow scientists and scientific journals for publishing even peer-reviewed literature of which they did not approve.”

Did they just?


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