Monday, August 04, 2008

At least he's learning

Like The Englishman, I received the link to Alex Lockwood's piece from Budderies, although others also sent it through (Ian QT solicitously asked enquired as to the proximity of my cardiologist before he lobbed the link over). Whilst I did not have time to write about it during the day, I did drop in and leave a comment or two.
I’m preparing a paper for an upcoming conference on this, so please comment if you can! Thanks. Many people have urged for there to be some legal or moral consequence for denying climate change. This urge generally comes from a number of places. Foremost is the belief that the science of anthropogenic climate change is proven beyond reasonable doubt and that climate change is an ethical issue.

I’m an advocate for something stronger. Call it regulation, law, or influence. Whatever name we give it, it should not be seen as regulation vs. freedom, but as a balancing of different freedoms.

The temptation to tear the arse apart was, I must confess, extraordinarily strong—even more so when he revealed that much of his work had been helping establish a free press in countries that were less than keen on it. For Alex Lockwood now to be proposing censorship of the press seemed worse than ironic or hypocritical: it seemed downright criminal.

However, I had a read through the comments (can you enable individual comment links, please, Alex), and it was apparent fairly quickly that Master Lockwood had seen the error of his ways in terms of the censorship bit. [Emphasis mine.]
I’d like to say that I was just setting up a straw man on this. That I was being purposefully provocative and never believed for a moment that regulation was the right way to go on the issue. That I didn’t support other calls (Monbiot, Alex Steffen etc) for limits to debate.

But I can’t say this, because, despite my background (working for Index on Censorship; editing, working with persecuted journalists in Albania, Zambia, Italy; supporting academic freedom) and personal views (I believe in freedom of expression where it does not incite violence or hatred or economic inequity against those who have less freedom to act or respond) I really was thinking that regulation, something, anything, would be an improvement on a discourse where, at its worst, very powerful, organised lobby groups and independent voices have been successful in halting action on what is, appears to be, almost certainly is (90% probability) happening.

But. This blog post, and the responses, here and on other blogs (e.g., has made me think about what pushed me into the position, particularly in light of previous personal experiences (e.g. I worked in Italy for a year for an alternative, independent media organisation, battling censorship and politcal media control: Wow. I really suggested censorship was a response? I was wrong. Thanks to all the posters and emails I’ve received, even the ones calling me an idiot. We might agree, now, even if it’s for different reasons.

There is, as they say, more rejoicing over one sinner who repenteth and all that jazz...

However, there is still the issue itself. What is it about anthropogenic climate change that made an evidently reasonable man like Alex Lockwood—who has worked in conditions in which free speech was not tolerated—decide that on this issue he would happily ditch not only the principle of free speech (on the side of which he has apparently fought so hard) but also the very foundations of scientific enquiry and reach for possible criminal sanctions or, at the very least, the censor's gag?

As regular readers of The Kitchen will know, your humble Devil is not convinced by the man-made climate change theory, not least because we cannot even be sure that there is any real long-term warming trend. So, it was on that front that I decided to attack (not least because others had dealt with the free speech issue and proof concept).

Here, then, is my first comment.


I am going, for the moment, to leave aside your unpleasant and dangerous ideas on the curbing of free speech and the denial of the accepted scientific method (that of falsifiability) and point you, instead, to a post that I wrote yesterday that lays out just a few problems with the very base data that the IPCC bases its reports on.

Now, please read and digest the points made in the post. Please then consider that NASA GISS figures make up the primary starting points for all of the IPCC reports and a very great many of the studies which also contribute to said reports.

If this absolutely fundamental data is incorrect, then we have a problem, do we not? Apart from anything else, we have to ask ourselves whether we have, in fact, observed any warming.

I will finally add that I find your desire to constrain the scientific method, let alone free speech, to be deeply unpleasant and very worrying: if even the media are prepared to think in terms of totalitarianism, don’t think that our governments haven’t.


As Alex battled to reassure increasingly irate bloggers that he had had a change of heart about banning them from saying anything that they couldn't prove to be true, I left another.
“I took a stance above, through frustration from reading hundreds of peer-reviewed and published academic research articles on how a publicly supported scientific issue has been undermined by economic interest lobbies…”

Oh right, and the scientists on the AGW side are working for free, out of the goodness of their hearts, are they? No. So they are working for economic lobbies too.

The dangerous thing about you, Alex, is that you think that companies = bad and government = good. Whilst the former is certainly debatable, the latter has been demonstrably shown, throughout history and in a large number of cases, to be deeply untrue.

Did you have a look at my post? Far too many of these “hundreds of peer-reviewed and published academic research articles” are based on these dodgy GISS figures, or other proxy figures that are just as bad, e.g. Mann et al. hockey stick graph and Keith Briffa’s bristle-cone pines (which even Briffa is now admitting may produce erroneous results).

In fact, the hockey-stick graph was heavily dependent on Briffa’s pine proxies: it was only when a bunch of eeeevil bloggers went and reproduced Briffa’s experiments and found them to be unreliable did he ‘fess up. One of those bloggers — Steve McIntyre — had previously ripped apart the hockey-stick graph.

As for peer-review… well, why not read this? My frustration comes from reading a load of papers based on erroneous damn data: I read papers that I know are based on bad data and yet they get peer-reviewed.

Peer-review is not “regulation” at all: it is a bunch of scientists endorsing the similar views of another bunch of scientists. Try being a scientist who does not agree with the “concensus”, e.g. the scientist who has found a viral component to BSE but struggles for both funding and other scientists willing to even stick their neck out against the consensus.

As soon as anyone says the word “concensus” then you should look very, very seriously at the assumptions and motives that drive them.


At this point, Alex did reply to me...
Devil’s Kitchen. Thanks, yes, I did look at your post and I’m revisiting now, to take a bit more time in digesting it.

I’m not so black’n'white that I think all companies are bad and all government are good, no. The Italian government is one of the worst I’ve lived under, for example (I’ve also lived in the Balkans).

I’m taking a closer look at the GISS data, but also a closer look at the history of both government and corporate efforts to protect economic growth over social benefit. And maybe a history of consensus, where it has worked and where it hasn’t.

I shall be interested to know what you make of said data, Alex. And so now the debate moves on...
“but also a closer look at the history of both government and corporate efforts to protect economic growth over social benefit.”

An interesting subject, not least because defining “social benefit” is a very tricky thing to do. Being a libertarian, I define social benefit as allowing people to do the things that the want to do as long as they harm no one else, i.e. personal freedom, but someone like Polly Toynbee would define it otherwise.

Take the issue of illegal drugs, for instance. Some would argue that drugs can be destructive to individuals and families and that making them illegal, and thus harder to get is, in fact, a social benefit.

Others, like myself, would argue that the turf wars, gang fights, impurities which cause most of the bad effects, the high prices, hysteria, criminalisation of otherwise law-abiding people and increasing tendency to rely on alcohol for kicks are far more destructive than allowing people access to pure drugs.

Some in the former camp might even agree with the above, but would then say that drugs are morally wrong and, no matter the evils caused by their illegality, it is still of benefit to society to ban them.

It rather depends how you view the world.


And his reply...
Devil’s kitchen: well there’s one thing we agree on. I worked for the NUS a dozen or so years ago campaigning against alcohol abuse, and always found the arbitary division between legal/illegal drugs, in relation to their societal impacts, frustrating.

We shall see how he finds the data that I have submitted: for the record, Alex, if you want any more, do feel free to drop me an email (address at the top of the sidebar) and I shall send you hundreds of links.

Many people, not least The Longrider, have been extremely harsh about Master Lockwood: this is a good thing, because maybe he will actually stop and consider what he is suggesting before he decides to try to ban the questioning of any scientific theory on his blog—let alone write a paper proposing it.

Further, since Master Lockwood seems to be a reasonable gentleman, I seriously hope that he reconsiders his enthusiastic endorsement of the AGW hoax or, at the very least, starts to do some digging into the actual, raw data underpinning the papers that he has been reading. Just to help him along, I have left a further comment on his blog, directing him to yet more mendacity by GISS.

Because, as I have said before, this data underpins a good number of the reports that are written on this subject: scientists do not go and do their own measurements, or discover and cover their own proxies—they use those already available.

And these are being shown, one by one, to be at best wrong and, at worst, actively duplicitous.

UPDATE: Bishop Hill has a look at some of Alex's other posts and comes to a definite conclusion.
God help his students.

Now that I certainly agree with.

1 comment:

knirirr said...

You know that I have a differing view from yours on this topic, but you are absolutely entitled to say what you please without sinister quangos butting in and trying to censor it. I added a comment to that effect in the relevant place (well, it awaits moderation).