Stephen McIntyre and Global Warming Believer’s Ethics

In my previous posts I explained how I started to research Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) claims, how I found a lot of very bad arguments amongst AGW Deniers, and how I also found some, but very few, AGW Denier arguments with merit. In this post, I’m going to more directly attack the other side now by explaining some of the things AGW Believers do that are of questionable ethics. 

Now, as you can imagine, by this point in my search for the truth I was tearing my hair out with anger and frustration. I felt like I couldn’t trust either side at all and, worse, the conservative side that I was partial to was often using arguments that made them look not only unethical but also incompetent. Was my only choice between tweedledum (republicans) and tweedledee (democrats.)!? 

I remembered that Orson Scott Card had written an article that mentioned an AGW Skeptic named Stephen McIntyre. He was also mentioned in The Great Global Warming Swindle. According to those two sources, McIntyre proved that the first pro-AGW model was bad and based on a software bug. [Note: Geoff informs me that this was actually the basis for the original hockey stick graph.] 

Feeling like I was wasting my time with other sources, I decided to Google Stephen McIntyre and see what he had to say. It turned out he runs a website. The current incarnation can be found here

Being partial to the “skeptic” point of view –- though quickly losing confidence in the AGW Deniers ability to use good arguments — I really wanted to find a AGW skeptic I could trust. At a minimum, I hoped to find out that not all AGW Deniers used lame arguments like the CO2 vs. Water Vapor argument –- thus proving they had no idea what they were talking about. 

It turns out that Stephen comes across very sincere and very knowledgeable — much more so that anyone I had found up to that point. He just wants to “audit” the AGW Believers data to give it much needed criticism. Stephen claims he only wants to make sure that climate models are not mistaken (or worse, falsified). But he says he’s open to honest dialog and claims to have no agenda but getting the truth out, whatever it is. Of course we all, say that about ourselves, no matter how biased we are, but I wanted to give Stephen a chance. 

AGW Believers Are Rotten Liars – Apparently It’s True 

One of the arguments with merit I mentioned in my last post  is the The “They Lied So They Can’t be Trusted” Argument. At that time, I merely mentioned that both sides have been caught lying, so this seems to be more a problem with human nature rather than a problem with only one side. 

While I’m going to stand behind the pertinence of that argument, I still find myself asking “So what?” If you can’t trust a source of information, you can’t trust a source of information. The fact that the ‘other guys’ are even more untrustworthy doesn’t somehow increase the truth quotient for the AGW Believers. 

The fact is that AGW models seems to fall into two possible categories: correct ones I don’t understand, and incorrect ones I don’t understand. 

The end result is the same: if I can’t wholly trust AGW Believers, I’m unwilling to put my fate in their hands. Since going back to school and getting a PhD in environmental science isn’t really an option for me, this is a serious issue and I don’t blame the AGW Deniers one bit for not wanting to trust anything that the AGW Believers say. 

Consider the AGW Believers response to Stephen McIntyre. He successfully found that one of the models they used was based on a software bug. Did they thank him and correct it and publish the results? Nope. 

Instead, they launched an attack on Stephen McIntyre’s reputation, resulting in Stephen launching his Climate Audit website to defend himself. This should chill any AGW Believers reading this – that AGW Believers will try to ruin the reputation of even honest AGW Skeptics. 

Now I don’t buy the AGW Deniers argument that all AGW Believers are dishonest any more than I buy that all AGW Deniers are dishonest. Both sides are bad and both sides have honest adherents. (Thanks to the media, we hear mostly the bad.) But I’ll tell you this: I have no way to know the bad ones from the good ones. Just exactly why should I trust the AGW climate models if I can’t even trust that group to accept criticism from Stephen McIntyre. 

Now of course the fact that climate scientists don’t want to share their data with McIntyre is a very human response. They are distrustful of Stephen since he’s a skeptic and, since he was successful at making one of their own look bad in the past, they don’t want that to happen to themselves. This is understandable, but it’s also inexcusable. In the end, the AGW Believers refusal to “play ball” with McIntyre is a black mark on their record that seriously undermines their own position. 

What About Good Climate Models? 

The AGW Believers respond to my argument above by pointing out that one piece of bad data and a few bad human reactions doesn’t a disproof make. I agree. For a moment, look at the chart below that I have taken from one of my favorite blog sites: The Eternal Universe. (It’s a Mormon heavy physics site.) Make sure to read the original post as well. 

Natural Anthropogenic Models

Graph That Proves AGW -- If Only I Knew How They Came Up With It

I suspect that this graph above may well be accurate. It’s meant to demonstrates that it’s mathematically possible to account for how much of the temperature gains over the centuries can be accounted for by natural processes vs. man made ones. As you can see, the man made ones are the difference between the temperature staying steady and growing. 

This graphically explains why AGW should be taken seriously. 

But so what? I have no idea how to tell if I should or shouldn’t trust it. I comprehend the point being made. But I don’t really know if I would agree or disagree with the assumptions it’s based on. The simple truth is that climate models are, for all intents and purposes, inaccessible information to me. They might as well be a personal revelation. 

Yes, in theory, I could go learn the math and the science and check it out for myself. But that’s unrealistic. So it all boils down to “who can I trust”? In other words, science is faith based for the layman. 

This is precisely why the AGW Believers have so thoroughly shot themselves in the foot by attacking the skeptics — even the good ones — like Stephen McIntyre. 

The One Fact To Rule Them All 

I remember excitedly reading Stephen’s website (the old one, not the current one), thinking that at last I’d found a competent AGW Skeptic. My growing belief that AGW Deniers were wholly an incompetent bunch was quickly evaporating along with my shame over the dishonesty of the conservative arguments. I was starting to feel good about the conservative side of the argument again. 

And that is when the floor fell out from under me. 

You see, I came across an article on Stephen’s website that ended my research altogether. I knew I didn’t have to research any further after finding this article. My personal view on the “debate” was set, at least until there was new information disproving what I’d found on Stephen’s website. I literally didn’t need to know any more, so I could now quit trying to make sense of it all. [1]  

And what did I find? But that’s the topic for the next post. 


[1] “…so I could now quit trying to make sense of it all.” This is the real reason I never got past more than a few hours of research. I discovered that Al Gore had turned out to be right about one (and probably only one) thing: the debate was over — at least for me.

18 thoughts on “Stephen McIntyre and Global Warming Believer’s Ethics

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  2. Bruce N., I find it impossible to take commentary like yours seriously when you insist on using inflammatory and inaccurate terms like “AGW denier”.

    “Denial” of something merely for lack of evidence is a religious position. “Skepticism” is more like it. I don’t know any AGW “deniers”. I also don’t know anyone who believes that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have no effect.

    So unless your purpose here is to take cheap shots, offend and mislead, perhaps you might consider using a more accurate term.

  3. Thanks Bruce for another well thought out post on AGW. And once again, I agree with everything you posted. As I’ve said before, there are far too many idiots and fools on both sides of the discussion. The people who attacked Stephen McIntyre’s reputation should have their own reputation shot down instead. Politics and science are a bad mix.

    Oh, and “thanks” for the link to The Eternal Universe site. Now I’m going to have even less free time… Sigh… 🙂

  4. Scientism is a very popular religious philosophy today. It is the irrational, faith-based belief that “Science” has the answers to everything, and that questioning “Science” is a sign of irrational, often fundamentalist, superstition. Adherents usually do not have much training in Science, the Scientific Method, or even critical thinking. They have simply chosen the secular god whose worship will not get them criticized by the intellectual elites.

    AGW Skepticism is heresy against Scientism, and is punished as such by fundamentalists. Heretics are to be anathematized for their heterodoxy, and for speaking against the authority of “Science.” When “Science” has spoken, the thinking is done.

    It is the responsibility of every ethical scientist to speak against Scientism.

  5. Wow, Blain, couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Mark D, I agree with you that skeptic is better than denier, and I would encourage that term. However, Believer is probably not how AGW proponents would choose to be described either, so Bruce in this case is an equal opportunity offender.

  6. Geoff, I agree “believer” has similarly unfair connotations, although perhaps not as severe as “denier”.

  7. Should we also say Holocaust skeptic rather than Holocaust denier? I don’t think most who disagree with the climate conclusions are merely being skeptical – although some are. The ones who are merely skeptical can be typically distinguished from the outright deniers. Most of what I read on the internet is denialism and not merely skepticism.

    Some things one should be skeptical of and I think Bruce points the figure exactly where some scientists have screwed up royally: by not being fully transparent and following the proper scientific peer review system. This has played into the hands of deniers who have then made things look much, much worse than it is.

    I also agree that Bruce is right many people believing in human caused global warming have turned it either into a kind of intellectual litmus test or made it a kind of sports team rootism. Like Android vs. iPhone flame wars. This is the opposite of how science should proceed and makes it far less likely to convince those most in need of convincing if people want political change.

  8. 8 — The situations aren’t analogous. The Holocaust is a past event which happened, while AGW is a phenomenon which has not yet been clearly manifest. With the former, the only real questions are whether it happened (which is hard to take as a legitimate question, because there is just too much unequivocal evidence that it did), and what exactly it was (which is pretty easy to establish by that same evidence). With the latter, the same degree of certitude can only come at some point in the future, when the AGW advocates say the situation will be beyond the tipping-point and out of our control.

    In fact, it’s that “tipping-point” aspect that seems to justify doing anything, regardless of the ethical problems, to stop the growth of AGW before it is reached, including both withholding the data from the heretics and insisting that all models which support AGW must be taken at face value.

    This aspect of the problem is religious in nature, and is not scientific at all. Science doesn’t tell us what we should do — it tries to tell us how things work, and, therefor, how they will be in the future, based on its best models. Given the vast ignorance of matters scientific, some (much/most?) of the religiosity of this is going to be found on the side of AGW disbelievers as well. Way too many people want to align themselves with the right “side” of many issues, rather than to understand the issues and the merits and failures of all sides. Some will reject AGW because they dislike its advocates and some of their other positions (including socialism, radical environmentalism, neo-Luddism, etc.). The problems Bruce talks of here will only feed that.

    It remains the responsibility of all ethical scientists to speak out against Scientism at every turn. Only they have the reverent authority in the eyes of the fundamentalist Scientists to turn this tide.

  9. I know that the temptation must be great to call one or the other of the political parties “tweedle dumb”–both of them surely deserve the “dumb” part of that name.

    But, to be true to Lewis Carroll, you really should write “tweedledum”. And save the “dumb” for another time. I’m sure you’ll find an appropriate one.

  10. The term “denier” is just plain gross. That some should feel so strongly about their position as to invoke such an horrific image of human suffering and then imply that those who oppose them would also deny the holocaust ever occurred is the height of academic hubris.

    All I can say is that those who would sling such horrific epithets at their opponents better damned well be right in the long run — because if not no amount of justification will cover their depravity.

  11. I confess that when I started out, I interchanged “AGW Denier” and “AGW Skeptic” interchangeably without any thought. But as I’ve written these articles, I seem to be trending towards not thinking of AGW Denier and AGW Skeptic as the same group of people. However, it looks like I still sometimes slip into the ‘interchangeable’ usage and I admit that is a bit confusing.

    Upon seeing MarkD’s complaints, I have given this some thought and I think ‘AGW Denier’ should probably be like Clark describes it: someone that is in denial and can’t have their mind changed no matter what. They are merely being political and don’t even understand the underlying debate.

    If this is what an ‘AGW Denier’ is then an ‘AGW Skeptic’ would be the group that is merely skeptical of AGW, not necessarily denying it and probably open minded to the possiblity.

    (If you prefer, think of AGW Skeptic as being the super group and AGW Denier as the extremist subgroup. Or think of them as two unrelated groups. Whichever you prefer.)

    The problem is that AGW Skeptics *know* they are not AGW Deniers and AGW Deniers *think* they aren’t. Therefore, there is presumably no one that self identifies as an AGW Denier even if they are one. Therefore, AGW Denier is actually the safer label for me to use if I have to say something negative because when I ‘bash on them,’ no one will ever feel I’m bashing on them personally.

    But if I bashed ‘AGW Skeptics’ as a group, I’d be in the wrong every time because that group is so much broader and presumably includes intelligent people that aren’t merely in denial of everything, such as Stephen McIntyre. That is why I specifically refer to McIntyre as an ‘AGW Skeptic’ and not an ‘AGW Denier’ because I don’t believe he’s a Denier.

    And you are all free to decide for yourself if you are an AGW Skeptic or an AGW Denier. If you feel you are not an AGW Denier, then clearly I wasn’t talking about you personally. 😛

    But the unfortunate truth is that with my 15 hours of research, I found tons of websites that easily fit an AGW Denier profile and not an AGW Skeptic profile. So I have no doubt whatsoever that AGW Deniers do in fact exist. What I do not know is if they are the majority or a minority.

  12. Could you please put some links to the bug that Stephen Macintyre found? I can’t find mention of it and find the subject very interesting,

    Thank you.

  13. My mention of “the bug” came straight from Orson Scott card’s article on the subject right here. I confess, I don’t really know how accurate Card is. But this is the source of my information.

  14. Bruce writes, ‘The simple truth is that climate models are, for all intents and purposes, inaccessible information to me. They might as well be a personal revelation. … So it all boils down to “who can I trust”? In other words, science is faith based for the layman.’

    Very well put.

  15. Bruce writes, ‘an ‘AGW Skeptic’ would be the group that is merely skeptical of AGW, not necessarily denying it and probably open minded to the possiblity’.

    For the record, this is me.

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