Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Doing Science in Court

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  • Idiot Savant,

    All you need do is suggest that the peer review process might have some slight bias (other than truth)

    Peer review isn't about truth, its about being decent work. Truth is what hopefully emerges when people read it and argue about it.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    a little over a year from the election means that any emissions policy can be put on hold until the courts have decided the truth

    I suspect that will not happen.

    Nick Smith and National have been fronting their scheme (albeit flawed according to Chauvel and others) in a series of meetings the length of the land, and in the face of strong Parliamentary pressure from ACT.

    A Court case will not force them to suspend the scheme (although it could be a convenient excuse for yet another U-turn from National.)

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    My favourite book? I suppose I can give a conditional seal of approval to Mark Fensters "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture;" it's easy to read and yet does some interesting (although I think a bit misguided) work all at the same time. the David Coady edited "Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate" is good if, like me. you are a philosopher.

    But, if you want a fun book, "Foucault's Pendulum" or "The Illumnatus Trilogy" are the ones I'd go for. Both are surprisingly good on historical detail and the mishmash theory of conspiratorial history. The former treats conspiracy theories as largely false and derives a compelling narrative about those who believe them, whilst the latter suggests they are all true and makes the world out to be as crazy as we thought it was anyway.

    I'm about to read DeLillo's "Libra," which I'm also told is very, very good, so I'll provisionally recommend that; Gio will likely a) say it is good and b) chastise me for not having read it yet.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Sarah Wedde,

    Even if the New Zealand temperature record showed no change, or a decrease in average temperature, that wouldn't make any difference to the reality of Global Climate Change. Beating up on NIWA isn't going to stop a glacier melting in Greenland.

    Of course they know that. Something something cynical and frivolous use of the justice system for PR purposes.

    Lower Hutt • Since Nov 2006 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Xavier,

    Phil's reference to Simon Singh, while about the parlous state of UK defamation law, is also likely to give some considerable comfort to the defendants. The UK appeal judgment in British Chiropractic Assn v Singh [2010] EWCA Civ 350 finishes by approving US Appeals Court Judge Easterbrook's comments in Underwager v Salter 22 Fed. 3d 730 (1994):

    Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. … More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models – not larger awards of damages – mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us.

    Also, this:

    The opinion may be mistaken, but to allow the party which has been denounced on the basis of it to compel its author to prove in court what he has asserted by way of argument is to invite the court to become an Orwellian ministry of truth. Milton, recalling in the Areopagitica his visit to Italy in 1638-9, wrote:

    "I have sat among their learned men, for that honour I had, and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning among them was brought; …. that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old a prisoner of the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought."

    That is a pass to which we ought not to come again.

    Since Nov 2006 • 49 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    Orwell and Milton. What a superb judge.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    any
    emissions policy can be put on hold until the
    courts have decided the truth.

    It certainly doesn't have to. Parliament has passed the ETS legislation, for instance, and it wouldn't lose effect even if the assumptions behind it were wrong. Which they aren't.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    @Danyl: Indeed, your post quoting Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars was exactly what I had in mind regarding the Sovietness of ACT's stance on science.

    I'll have to get a copy of that book - seems like the Science Wars are still being fought.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Markp,

    They could probably sneak in under the "education" aspect of charitable purposes. However, if they register with the Charities Commission (which they appear not to have yet done) the Commission will be keeping a very close eye on them. It is much harder to register with the Commission these days unless you have a blatantly obvious charitable purpose.

    Kaitaia • Since Aug 2010 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'm about to read DeLillo's "Libra," which I'm also told is very, very good, so I'll provisionally recommend that; Gio will likely a) say it is good and b) chastise me for not having read it yet

    I will gladly do both of those things, if only to stay true to my image of curmudgeonly postmodernist. Falling Man is also good.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    Next we'll see all that gravity nonsense in court. And not a day too soon!

    made me think of something so very similar that happened not so long ago, relatively speaking -

    I feel a Galileo defence (when tried for heresy) coming on...the Earth is warming but God made it so.

    In the event Galileo was proved correct but sadly, the persecutors are still around, diddling with defenceless children and blaming teh gays.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Peer review isn't about truth, its about being decent work. Truth is what hopefully emerges when people read it and argue about it.

    Although peer review (when done correctly) requires that the work being done is also justified to a reasonable extent by the evidence available and by the arguments presented, which does tend as much towards truth as any position can that is not unarguable. It weeds out the "This is true because I say so" types by definition.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Climate Change Denial does seem to be ACT's Lysenkoism.

    I was once asked, by someone attached to Rodney Hide, if I'd like to talk to him about Popper (who, apparently, he admires, although I've not yet seen that admiration come out in his ability to talk about science) and the doctrine of Falsificationism. I turned down the opportunity, mostly because I didn't want to do work for the ACT Party. Now I wish I hadn't. It'd be great to know exactly what Hide thinks privately about how science is done and the (if any) difference in his public attitude.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Popper (who, apparently, he admires, although I've not yet seen that admiration come out in his ability to talk about science

    No, it'll be the "The Open Society and Its Enemies" line of work that spins Rodney's wheels, I'm guessing. Not that it's a bad book (not that I've read it!) it's just not especially enduring (unlike falsification, for all its flaws.)
    And one suspects Popper would be horrified at the 'Climate Denialists'.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • David Parker,

    I must admit to being intrigued by this court case especially whether a court is the right place.
    There are certainly problems with the accuracy of temperature measuring stations, not so bad in NZ but real bad in many places around the world. Its only been since 1979 that we have been able to have accurate data from satellites measuring temperature in the troposphere that we have had data which can be trusted.
    NIWA have certainly stuffed up by not providing the mathematical calculations which justify the alterations they have made to the seven station data set from 1850. Oh they have showed by how much they increased it but not the reasons expressed mathematically.
    Their alterations changed raw data showing no warming (cooling rather!) to a 1 degree rise in the last 100 years. The rest of the world is .7, so why is NZ higher than the rest of the world?
    If the science is to be robust then let other scientists test it.
    Whats to fear?

    The other thing is that for those who believe that CO2 has caused this warming, they now have a problem.
    The theory that CO2 mixing with water vapour creates positive feedback and hence is amplified creating heat in hot spots and hence temp rises has now been proved to be incorrect in a Peer Reviewed Research paper.
    This is not to say there isnt warming as clearly there is. Its just not being caused by CO2.

    Disclaimer- I'm not a member of the CSC and I aint funded by big oil. Just an intrigued NZer to has read enough to realise the IPCC doesnt actually know for sure....

    Auckland • Since Aug 2010 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Interesting, David, that you are so sure ('proved incorrect'?) global warming is "not being caused by CO2".
    Here's the thing: the IPCC know they don't "know for sure". Because they have a clue about science.
    But you are convinced you know they are wrong. Which means you know just enough to be completely and wildly misguided about what a scientific debate would even look like :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    The theory that CO2 mixing with water vapour creates positive feedback and hence is amplified creating heat in hot spots and hence temp rises has now been proved to be incorrect in a Peer Reviewed Research paper.
    This is not to say there isnt warming as clearly there is. Its just not being caused by CO2.

    Says man with Internet connection who won't so much as provide a link to the paper behind this claim.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • David Parker,

    Sorry,
    McKitrick, McIntyre and Herman et al 2010.

    Its very mathematical though, which is appropriate as so was Santer et al 2008.
    Which is what you would expect as no physical observations have been able to find the hot spots so modelling was used

    Auckland • Since Aug 2010 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    McKitrick, McIntyre and Herman et al 2010.

    Who collectively give me the grand total of one Google result - this one. Since apparently they disprove nothing less than the CO2 theory of global warming, I'd expect a little more. Could you guide us to this paper in any way? Does it have a title?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Rich is of course talking about the UK. Last night I caught a repeat of Kim Hill's 7 August interview with Simon Singh who successful defended a case, talking about his own experience and what is, I understand, the near-universal support for rational change sooner rather than later.

    He sucessfully defended his case, yes (as did Penguin and Deborah Lipstadt). The question is whether the plaintiff (in both cases) should have been able to bring the case in the first place, causing years of stress and financial hardship to the defendants, who were, in the end, fully exonerated.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    If the science is to be robust then let other scientists test it.
    Whats to fear?

    I don't believe there is anything stopping other scientists from verifying the numbers. In fact, as associate professor Euan Mason of the University of Canterbury writes:

    Let the “Climate Science Coalition” tender its own calculations and subject them to rigorous peer review by submitting a scientific paper.

    If the "Climate Science Coalition" has an opposing theory, then submit it and let other scientists test it. What's to fear?

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • David Parker,

    Martin
    What is stopping other scientists from verifying the data is the absence of the calculations to the changes of the data itself....
    Did Euan Mason "test" the data or has he just expressed an opinion without backing it up?
    With out the methodology anyone would be just guessing. And it looks like NIWA are just guessing.
    The other point is that NIWA are public servants. We pay for their work. So they are the ones beholden to us to justify their research.
    Dont you agree that they should be accountable?
    The question remains.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2010 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • David Parker,

    http://rossmckitrick.weebly.com/uploads/4/8/0/8/4808045/mmh_asl2010.pdf

    Heres the paper.
    The end result is that where Santer et al found the error bars could overlap, McKitrick found that the models overestimated temperatures by 200 and 400% in the lower and mid troposphere respectively.
    This represents a basic validation test of climate models over a 30 year period, a validation test which SHOULD be fundamental to any belief in the models, and their usefulness for projections of global warming in the future.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2010 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • David Parker,

    Sorry for the back and forth posting. I have a two year old going rogue. Figures 2 and 3 are the relevant ones.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2010 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Sarah Wedde,

    According to the NIWA site their methodology was published in the International Journal of Climatology. I don't have access so I don't know what this paper contains.

    Also, the eleven site series unadjusted data shows a warming trend just as the seven site series adjusted data does.

    Lower Hutt • Since Nov 2006 • 66 posts Report Reply

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