Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Forecast-the-facts" has no facts left — just demands that newspapers do inflammatory namecalling

How can you forecast facts?  What you forecast has not happened so it cannot be a fact

"Forecast the Facts" wants newspapers to label anyone who disagrees with them as mentally deficient deniers. Climate change is settled, beyond debate, and the evidence is overwhelming, but the the team with all that certainty seems awfullly scared that the public might listen to their critics.

Look at the first line of their defining statement Who We Are:  “Forecast the Facts is dedicated to ensuring that Americans hear the truth about climate change”.  In this case the truth is not about the planetary atmosphere so much as “facts” about newspaper word use, opinions of science pin-up personality, and a club with a long nerdy sounding name. The research they want to share is not about the troposphere, but about their “success” in silencing alternate views: can we cancel an ad campaign, or harrass an executive who is not toeing the line?

 Forecast the Facts is a grassroots human rights organization dedicated to ensuring that Americans hear the truth about climate change: that temperatures are increasing, human activity is largely responsible, and that our world is already experiencing the effects. We do this by empowering everyday people to speak out in the face of misinformation and hold accountable those who mislead the public.

Their human rights concern  is as deep as their science. They empower everyday people who agree with them, and want to shut the damn rest of the voices up. Lately their campaigns are titled “Condemn Climate Censorship”. Indeed.

Skeptics just want newspapers to use accurate English (please write to the editors to tell them). A “denier” must deny something, and in a science debate, it implies someone denies evidence. So what is it? I’ve been asking for specific climate evidence for five years. You’d think if the planet was at stake, perhaps someone could find it? Others say deniers deny the consensus, but a consensus is a vote, a poll an opinion, not science.  We don’t vote for the Laws of Motion.

Using standard English definitions, those who believe in phenomenon without evidence are gullible. Those who want evidence are rational.  If skeptics deny the need to obey opinion polls, it’s because they are  scientists. This is not the battle of denier versus scientist, it’s the battle of rational versus the gullible.

Skeptics want a scientific debate. Believers want editors to start namecalling instead.

The press release

“Deniers Are Not Skeptics”: New Research on Leading Papers Shows the Need for Greater Scrutiny in Reporting on Climate Denial

According to new research conducted by Media Matters in coordination with Forecast the Facts, the country’s leading newspapers have repeatedly used the inaccurate term “skeptic” to describe those who deny the basic scientific facts of climate change.

The study reviews published content from three leading newspapers from December 23, 2014 to March 23, 2015 that used a specific term to describe a person who denies that climate change is real and driven by human activity — both scientifically well-established facts. The three-month study revealed some disconcerting statistics:

The New York Times incorrectly used the term “skeptic” in 9 articles; The Washington Post in 6 articles; The Los Angeles Times in 4 articles.

An example of this incorrect usage of “skeptic” can be found in a November 10, 2014 article in The New York Times, in which Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) — who’s called climate change “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated” — was labeled a “skeptic.”

In December 2014, a large group of Fellows from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), including Dr. Mark Boslough and Bill Nye, penned an open letter to the media, asking that they “please stop using the word ‘skeptic’ to describe deniers.” The CSI Fellows wrote as follows: “As scientific skeptics, we are well aware of political efforts to undermine climate science by those who deny reality but do not engage in scientific research or consider evidence that their deeply held opinions are wrong. The most appropriate word to describe the behavior of those individuals is ‘denial.’ Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry.”

Following the open letter from CSI fellows, Forecast the Facts launched a petition to support their call. More than 28,000 Forecast the Facts members have signed on so far.

On May 6, Forecast the Facts sent letters to executive and standards editors at these three publications and, in response, opened up dialogue with editors at both The Washington Post and The New York Times. New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan also wrote in the Public Editor’s Journal on May 7, “readers are right to watch these choices carefully. The difference between skeptic and denier…may seem minor, but it’s really not. Simply put, words matter.” The Los Angeles Times has not yet commented.

Forecast the Facts and its 170,000 members will continue to monitor climate coverage in leading newspapers for the incorrect usage of “skeptic” in regards to climate change. Forecast the Facts has also launched a petition to the Associated Press, asking that they add an entry to the AP StyleBook providing guidance on use of the term “skeptic” in the context of describing those who disavow well-established scientific facts.

Forecast the Facts ran the malicious campaign to use stolen and fake documents to intimidate donors to the Heartland Institute. See Heartlands response to Forecast the Facts. Is that Forecast the Fakes?


A vast Antarctic ice shelf a few years from disintegration, says Nasa

This prophecy concerns a small part of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is anomalous, apparently due to subsurface vulcanism. And if it is like other Warmist prophecies, it won't happen

The last intact section of one of Antarctica’s mammoth ice shelves is weakening fast and will likely disintegrate completely in the next few years, contributing further to rising sea levels, according to a Nasa study released on Thursday.

The research focused on a remnant of the so-called Larsen B Ice Shelf, which has existed for at least 10,000 years but partially collapsed in 2002. What is left covers about 625 sq miles (1,600 sq km), about half the size of Rhode Island.

Antarctica has dozens of ice shelves – massive, glacier-fed floating platforms of ice that hang over the sea at the edge of the continent’s coast line. The largest is roughly the size of France.

Larsen B is located in the Antarctic Peninsula, which extends toward the southern tip of South America and is one of two principal areas of the continent where scientists have documented the thinning of such ice formations.

“This study of the Antarctic Peninsula glaciers provides insights about how ice shelves farther south, which hold much more land ice, will react to a warming climate,” said Eric Rignot, co-author of the study and a glaciologist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The study, published online in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, was based on airborne surveys and radar data.

The study’s lead scientist, Ala Khazendar, said analysis of the data reveals that a widening rift in Larsen B will eventually break it apart completely, probably around the year 2020.

Once that happens, glaciers held in place by the ice shelf will slip into the ocean at a faster rate and contribute to rising sea levels, scientists say.

The study also found Leppard and Flask, two main tributary glaciers of the ice shelf, have thinned by between 65 and 72 feet (20 to 22 meters) in recent years, and the pace of their shrinking has accelerated since the immediate aftermath of the 2002 partial collapse of the ice shelf.


Measuring The Stupidity Of Democratic Lawmakers In Washington DC

Democratic lawmakers in Washington DC, like Barack Obama and Sheldon Whitehouse, believe that they are burning up. To get a feel for the level of stupidity on display by these two clowns, look at the stats for DC.

The Potomac was frozen solid in DC during March, for the first time on record.
B_f5taAU0AA_sD4 (2) March 7, 2015

In 1946, the cherry trees were already blooming by March 15.


Winter temperatures just west of DC have been plummeting for 25 years, with the last two being two of the four coldest on record.

ScreenHunter_9271 May. 15 07.27

Snowfall has been increasing, with two of the four snowiest years occurring since 2010

ScreenHunter_9272 May. 15 07.30

The past two years have both seen 7 record cold daily temperatures, the most in 110 years.

ScreenHunter_9270 May. 15 07.24

The frequency of 90 degree days has plummeted, peaking at one day out of four in 1911, and last year about one day out of thirty.

ScreenHunter_9275 May. 15 07.55

Summer temperatures have plummeted over the lat 80 years, with last summer being the second coolest on record. We didn’t have any really hot days last summer – it never even occurred to me to want to turn the air conditioner on.

ScreenHunter_9273 May. 15 07.51

By all measures, Washington DC is getting much cooler and snowier, yet Obama and Whitehouse continue to try to convince other lawmakers that they are burning up.

ScreenHunter_9276 May. 15 08.03

But Washington isn’t the world, we need to look at the total atmosphere. Since Obama’s first child was born, the Earth’s atmosphere hasn’t warmed even 0.01 degrees. Only a complete idiot would take on an imaginary problem as his primary legacy.
ScreenHunter_9277 May. 15 08.07


Papal encyclical Delayed, Possibly Downgraded To Lesser Form?

The encyclical might be downgraded to some lesser form of “statement.” This is the rumor as reported to me from “sources.” Given the excitement the encyclical generated on the left, look for some prime grade, sustained hissy fits if a downgrade happens.

A downgrade would be good news for the rest of us, however, given the premise that the content of the document was, rumor had it, deep green, and thus anti-science, and even, given green “solutions” to population control, anti-faith.

An encyclical, in the form of brief or bull, is something akin to military orders. It can’t be brushed aside, but must be engaged. This is not to say an encyclical is a recipe containing step-by-step directives, but it has words which must be hearkened to. To have an idea, peek at one which is perhaps best known to our generation, St John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio.

Here’s the story. The “green” encyclical was written and sent, as a matter of due course, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith—the office then Cardinal “rottweiler” Ratzinger oversaw, and which is in charge of ensuring doctrinal fidelity of Church matters. German Cardinal Gerhard Müller heads it now and is, it is said, a traditionalist.

Now his Eminence’s team of canon lawyers and theologians, the press is reporting, took exception certain propositions in the document. Which, we don’t know.

According to Vaticanist Sandro Magister, Pope Francis has decided to postpone the publication of his long-awaited encyclical on the environment. The reason, according to Magister, is that the Pope realized that the document in its current state had no chance of receiving the approval of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith…
Magister, incidentally, is a well known and respected court watcher. Word is the encyclical was ghost written by Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of Tiburnia, a native of Buenos Aires. Fernández, who once wrote a book on the theology of kissing. Yes, kissing. Sáname con tu boca. El arte de besar. Magister quotes from the book,

I explain that this book was written based on my personal experience as the lives of the people kissing. In these pages I want to summarize the popular sentiment, what people feel when they think of a kiss, what mortals feel when kissing…

Anyway, word of the rejection, if that’s what it was, filtered out to folks like Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the force behind that latest Pontifical Academy meeting and whose writings are difficult to distinguish from Greenpeace broadsides. Maradiaga went on a rant and blamed “movements in the United States” for the push-back.

Meanwhile, one of the movements Maradiaga did not mean, was taking place. Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski and New Mexico Bishop Oscar Cantú met Wednesday behind closed doors Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to prep for, the report says, the encyclical, which at that time was still thought to be on track.

With me so far? The tale grows necessarily murkier here. If the proposed encyclical was rejected as reported, it could of course be sent back for rewriting. Or it could be issued in some other form, with or without the Pope’s name attached. For instance, the Pontifical Academy for Science’s summary document of their recent meeting is, naturally, a Church-issued statement, but it doesn’t hold the force of doctrine nor did Pope Francis sign it. (And given the document is full of undefined terms like “sustainability”, thank God for that.)

Supposing the reports I have are true, and since they haven’t been widely reported in the media, there is still time for people to change their minds and save face. Bishop Fernández could redraft. But given the strong personalities involved, it’s a better bet we’ll see a downgrade.

How would the press and greenies react to a downgrade? I’m guessing with their customary petulance and with much whining about how dark capitalistic forces “made” the Pope suffer this ignominy. The left will juice up pity for the Pope and then treat the statement (in whatever lesser form it is) as if it were an encyclical. They’ll write headlines drawing from the document which say (we can guess) things like, “God doesn’t want global warming.”

They’ll say, “True Catholics must care for the environment”, where by “care for the environment” they mean Catholics must cede more control to government. Or use more birth control, or have more abortions. In other words, not much will change, though the two camps will become more divided.

Given the numerous collection of ifs, supposings, and rumor in this report, what’s your guess?


Two full seconds after I hit “publish”, I had this email, “Father Lombardi: Eco Encyclical on Track for Expected June Publication. Speaking to the Register, the Vatican spokesman dismissed a claim this week that doctrinal concerns about the encyclical’s draft text have derailed its publication.”

“…’rumors and fantasies,’ Father Lombardi said.”

Wheels withing wheels. But it wouldn’t be the first time something that vigorously, even vehemently, denied by Vatican officials, turned out true.


Will David Cameron Make Britain An Energy Powerhouse?

A lot of people think so

For years, political gridlock and environmentalist opposition have prevented natural gas drilling to move forward in the UK, but the massive conservative victory in the country’s recent election could make Britain a world energy player. Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and his new conservative government have made developing the UK’s vast shale gas reserves a major priority in their bid to create a “Northern Powerhouse” of the island nation. Chancellor George Osborne is a big supporter of the Northern Powerhouse plan, so shale could soon become a reality for the the British. --Michael Bastasch, The Daily Caller, 14 May 2015

The news was welcomed by free market groups that favor energy production and more local control over economic affairs. “We welcome the government’s determination to develop shale gas as a key plank of their ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda,” Lord Nigel Lawson of Blaby, chairman of the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF), said in a statement. “The development of shale gas could in time create a whole new energy industry that would generate billions of much needed revenue,” Lawson said. --Michael Bastasch, The Daily Caller, 14 May 2015

The UK’s reliance on gas for heating makes fracking a serious option for governments at both Holyrood and Westminster, according to a Church of Scotland report. In a detailed consideration of the contentious technology, the Kirk’s church and society council said it was inevitable that the country would soon be left with a choice of the development of fuel sources at home, such as shale gas, or a reliance on expensive imports. --Mike Wade, The Times, 12 May 2015

The appointment of Amber Rudd as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change under the new Conservative government marks a critical moment for UK shale developers. Lancashire County Council’s planning committee is due to decide on 30 June whether to give independent UK energy company Cuadrilla the go ahead for what would be the first drilled and fracked shale wells in the UK. “The decision… will be the first test of Rudd’s commitment – or not – to UK shale,” Alastair Fraser, chair in Petroleum Geoscience at Imperial College London, told Interfax. --Annemarie Botzki, Interfax, 13 May 2015

A study says fracking has the potential to unlock 140billion barrels of global oil supplies. The amount would be equivalent to Russia’s known reserves, according to analysis by IHS. According to the report, countries such as Iran, Mexico, China and Russia are likely to benefit most from exploiting techniques in the US shale revolution. It was also found that two thirds of the extra recoverable oil would come from the Middle East and Latin America. --Energy Voice, 14 May 2015

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), chaired by former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson, has recently launched an inquiry into the reliability of global surface temperature records, with a group of international "eminent climatologists, physicists and statisticians" set to probe current data. Dr Benny Peiser, director of the GWPF, has said he hopes the findings will address the lack of clarity and transparency he claims surrounds temperature records - while admitting his "growing concern" about the gathering of global warming statistics. --Levi Winchester, Daily Express, 15 May 2015


Tackling human biases in science

Judith Curry

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea.

Nautilus has published a very interesting article entitled The trouble with scientists:  How one psychologist is tackling human biases in sciences.  I thought this article would be a good antidote to the latest nonsense by Lewandowsky and Oreskes.  Excerpts:

"Sometimes it seems surprising that science functions at all. In 2005, medical science was shaken by a paper with the provocative title “Why most published research findings are false.” As Ioannidis concluded more recently, “many published research findings are false or exaggerated, and an estimated 85 percent of research resources are wasted.”

It’s likely that some researchers are consciously cherry-picking data to get their work published. And some of the problems surely lie with journal publication policies. But the problems of false findings often begin with researchers unwittingly fooling themselves: they fall prey to cognitive biases, common modes of thinking that lure us toward wrong but convenient or attractive conclusions.

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea. Psychologists have shown that “most of our reasoning is in fact rationalization,” he says. In other words, we have already made the decision about what to do or to think, and our “explanation” of our reasoning is really a justification for doing what we wanted to do—or to believe—anyway. Science is of course meant to be more objective and skeptical than everyday thought—but how much is it, really?

Whereas the falsification model of the scientific method championed by philosopher Karl Popper posits that the scientist looks for ways to test and falsify her theories—to ask “How am I wrong?”—Nosek says that scientists usually ask instead “How am I right?” (or equally, to ask “How are you wrong?”). When facts come up that suggest we might, in fact, not be right after all, we are inclined to dismiss them as irrelevant, if not indeed mistaken.

Statistics may seem to offer respite from bias through strength in numbers, but they are just as fraught. Chris Hartgerink of Tilburg University in the Netherlands works on the influence of “human factors” in the collection of statistics. He points out that researchers often attribute false certainty to contingent statistics. “Researchers, like people generally, are bad at thinking about probabilities,” he says. While some results are sure to be false negatives—that is, results that appear incorrectly to rule something out—Hartgerink says he has never read a paper that concludes as much about its findings. His recent research shows that as many as two in three psychology papers reporting non-significant results may be overlooking false negatives.

Given that science has uncovered a dizzying variety of cognitive biases, the relative neglect of their consequences within science itself is peculiar. A common response to this situation is to argue that, even if individual scientists might fool themselves, others have no hesitation in critiquing their ideas or their results, and so it all comes out in the wash: Science as a communal activity is self-correcting. Sometimes this is true—but it doesn’t necessarily happen as quickly or smoothly as we might like to believe.

Nosek thinks that peer review might sometimes actively hinder clear and swift testing of scientific claims. He points out that, when in 2011 a team of physicists in Italy reported evidence of neutrinos that apparently moved faster than light (in violation of Einstein’s theory of special relativity), this astonishing claim was made, examined, and refuted very quickly thanks to high-energy physicists’ efficient system of distributing preprints of papers through an open-access repository. If that testing had relied on the usual peer-reviewed channels, it could have taken years.

Medical reporter Ivan Oransky  believes that, while all of the incentives in science reinforce confirmation biases, the exigencies of publication are among the most problematic. “To get tenure, grants, and recognition, scientists need to publish frequently in major journals,” he says. “That encourages positive and ‘breakthrough’ findings, since the latter are what earn citations and impact factor. So it’s not terribly surprising that scientists fool themselves into seeing perfect groundbreaking results among their experimental findings.”

Nosek agrees, saying one of the strongest distorting influences is the reward systems that confer kudos, tenure, and funding.  “I could be patient, or get lucky—or I could take the easiest way, making often unconscious decisions about which data I select and how I analyze them, so that a clean story emerges. But in that case, I am sure to be biased in my reasoning.”

Not only can poor data and wrong ideas survive, but good ideas can be suppressed through motivated reasoning and career pressures. Skepticism about bold claims is always warranted, but looking back we can see that sometimes it comes more from an inability to escape the biases of the prevailing picture than from genuine doubts about the quality of the evidence. Science does self-correct when the weight of the evidence demands it, says Nosek, but “we don’t know about the examples in which a similar insight was made but was dismissed outright and never pursued.”

Surprisingly, Nosek thinks that one of the most effective solutions to cognitive bias in science could come from the discipline that has weathered some of the heaviest criticism recently for its error-prone and self-deluding ways: pharmacology. It is precisely because these problems are so manifest in the pharmaceutical industry that this community is, in Nosek’s view, way ahead of the rest of science in dealing with them.

Nosek has instituted a similar pre-registration scheme for research called the Open Science Framework (OSF).  The idea, says Nosek, is that researchers “write down in advance what their study is for and what they think will happen.” It sounds utterly elementary, like the kind of thing we teach children about how to do science. And indeed it is—but it is rarely what happens. Instead, as Fiedler testifies, the analysis gets made on the basis of all kinds of unstated and usually unconscious assumptions about what would or wouldn’t be seen. Nosek says that researchers who have used the OSF have often been amazed at how, by the time they come to look at their results, the project has diverged from the original aims they’d stated.

Ultimately, Nosek has his eyes on a “scientific utopia,” in which science becomes a much more efficient means of knowledge accumulation. As Oransky says, “One of the larger issues is getting scientists to stop fooling themselves. This requires elimination of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias, and I haven’t seen any good solutions for that.” So along with OSF, Nosek believes the necessary restructuring includes open-access publication, and open and continuous peer review. We can’t get rid of our biases, perhaps, but we can soften their siren call. As Nosek and his colleague, psychologist Yoav Bar-Anan of Ben-Gurion University in Israel, have said, “The critical barriers to change are not technical or financial; they are social. Although scientists guard the status quo, they also have the power to change it.”

JC reflections

There are a number of things that I like about this article.  I think that the studying cognitive biases in science is an important topic, that has unfortunately been perverted by Stephan Lewandowsky, with respect to climate science anyways.

Lets face it:  would you expect Soon and Monckton to write a paper on ‘Why climate models run cold’.   Or Jim Hansen to write a paper saying that human caused climate change is not dangerous. People that have a dog in the fight (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea, that supports their particular ‘dog.’  The term ‘motivated reasoning’ is usually reserved for political motivations, but preserving your reputation or funding is probably more likely to be a motivator among scientists.

As scientists, it is our job to fight against biases (and its not easy).  One of the ways that I fight against bias is to question basic assumptions, and see if challenges to these assumptions are legitimate.  The recent carbon mass balance thread is a good example.  Until Salby’s argument came along, it never even occurred to me to question the attribution of the recent CO2 increase – I had never looked at this closely, and assumed that the IPCC et al. knew what they were talking about. 

Once you start looking at the problem in some detail, it is clear that it is very complex with many uncertainties, and I have a nagging idea that we need to frame the analysis differently, in the context of dynamical systems.  So I threw this topic open to discussion, stimulated by Fred Haynie’s post.   I think that everyone who followed this lengthy and still ongoing discussion learned something (I know I did), although the discussants at both extremes haven’t come any closer to agreeing with each other.  But the process is key – to throw your assumptions open to challenge and see where it goes.  In this way we can fight our individual bias and the collective biases emerging from consensus building activities.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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