Ongoing ignorance of experts 4

Want the good news or the bad news? Trick question. It’s either both or nothing.

To get us started, here’s a tweet from a Greenie today telling us some good news:

James does indeed shoot hard and well on the latest polar bear porn. But this I think is less straightforward:

Matt’s article in The Times yesterday was entitled Blue Planet II was superb, save a few fishy facts. (Behind the Murdoch paywall – but the GWPF mailed me an excerpt. Does that work for others?) I think it’s a good piece and it makes JND’s question a good one. Because, among other things, Matt Ridley buys the idea that ocean plastic, though an eco scare, is a real problem. Eerily, as if in response, The Times today has on its front page Gove: boost aid cash in fight against ocean plastic. The new Environment Secretary craftily wants the international development budget to be raided to help the countries which, it seems, are the main source of the problem. But not everyone thinks that is going to be effective:

While we’re on the Gove-rnment in waiting there’s this

I thought that was worth retweeting. Meanwhile in the same 24 hours the GWPF has alerted me to this key article in Nature: Investigation finds Swedish scientists committed scientific misconduct. The focus of their work? The subheading Probe centered on controversial paper that claimed microplastic pollution harms fish may give a clue.

My question though is broader and harder than who is right or wrong about the eco scare that is ocean plastic. It’s this. Exactly where did I go off topic in the first section of this well-meaning post to the blog called Climate Scepticism?

Why this blog is important – and difficult (redux)

The good news, I aver, is that climate is a gateway drug for a lot of other bad stuff. (Good news for us as a blog, that is, though bad news for society.) But being a real expert on so many things is incredibly hard. That’s part of the bad news for us as a blog – and indeed for everyone.

The instalments of this series are I realise of variable length. This one is I think enough for useful discussion. There is more, some of it likely to come along pretty soon.


  1. Thanks for linking to the Delingpole article. We lefty sceptics don’t read Delingpole much now, because he is at Breitbart, which apparently pays better than our own homegrown rightwing Daily Telegraph. What a shame. Here’s what he says about the polar bear:

    The footage was filmed on Baffin Island in Canada. Surely, if you or I had been there, we could have found something edible to push that stricken bear’s way: maybe a visiting delegation of performance poets, abstract artists and avant-garde musicians who arrived by antique sailing ship on a Rockefeller-Foundation-funded arts project to “raise awareness” of melting icecaps; or a group of Greenpeace activists(aren’t bears attracted by strong smells?) on a No To Arctic Drilling protest; or one of the plethora of explorers on another of those deep and meaningful eco-expeditions, sponsored by one of those big reinsurance companies whose business model largely depends on scaring potential clients into thinking global warming is a serious problem.

    Some of my best friends are abstract artists and avant-garde musicians, but I love Delingpole nonetheless.


  2. A fairly cursory reading would reveal it’s about more than polar bears. But polar bears have become important of late in the demonisation-and-destruction-of-every-last-dissenter stakes, so I’m perfectly happy to discuss them further.

    Geoff: A very funny passage. Earlier one fearless polar bear expert was in more serious mood in criticising the BBC (to our own Paul Matthews) in not beginning to think through what the cameraman should have been doing

    I’m not sure James was motivated solely by money in moving from the Telegraph to Breitbart. Weren’t they really closing down their old blogs? The way, as they did, they destroyed the whole archive, including all James’ old pieces, was very poor. James has also written a fair bit for The Spectator in recent days. (And that was where he came out as a climate sceptic in July 2009, having met Ian Plimer. That article used to be here. It should be retrievable from the Wayback Machine some time.)

    It was encouraging to see a Green publicly acknowledge this latest polar bear propaganda was pseudoscience.

    Ron: Thank you. I felt sure someone in comments would know more about the ocean junk situation than I do.


  3. ” A fairly cursory reading would reveal it’s about more than polar bears.”

    Ditto Crockford’s PhD thesis, but you all think that it is about polar bears, or enough to qualify her as having written peer reviewed papers about them. It beggars belief, but there you have it.


  4. Richard, anyone who disagrees with Paul’s assertion that Crockford’s PhD or other papers are about polar bears because they contain the words “polar bear” (and he was kind enough to highlight the words to emphasize the point) has had ample opportunity. Nobody has, from which I infer the conclusion that you all agree with him. Who doesn’t?

    [PM: Lying liar Len lies again. My post didn’t even mention her PhD]


  5. Len do you have problems with your memory (or is it with basic English)? I have already commented that the thesis does not concern itself primarily with polar bears. However it clearly demonstrates that Crockford knew that her study and its methods could be applied to polar bears and contains a short discussion of this. I also pointed out that you cannot even claim that Crockford had done no work involving polar bears, since it is not uncommon for a PhD thesis to omit large sections of work done if during the writing it is found there is more than enough material to obtain the degree. Writing a thesis has only one goal – to secure the higher degree.

    Let me, in turn, ask you a question. I presume you have read her non-peer reviewed paper. My question is – does this paper present data, analyse it and produce useful conclusions – in other words does it appear to have been written by someone who is an expert?


  6. Len. Let’s nail this down. Over the past days you have been at considerable pains to trash Susan Crockford’s reputation as an expert on polar bears. To the extent of denying that two papers published by her showed that she was an expert.

    One paper shows a photograph of a tooth, identified as that of a polar bear. I don’t know that it is, and I’m damn sure you don’t. In fact I don’t believe I know anyone who could identify it. In fact it requires more than mere “book-learning”. Identification of the tooth identifies someone with specialist knowledge – in other words an expert.

    The second paper includes a diagram of a speculative origin for polar bears. Such diagrams incorporate a large amount of knowledge and thought. The suggested origin may be, as far as I know, absolute claptrap, but as a summation it identifies the author as someone who has a wide background knowledge – an expert.

    What are your arguments against my conclusions? Let’s see the beef!

    [PM: May I add one other point – those were just two papers I looked at quickly. There may be others.]


  7. My mistake, Paul. You think the 2003/7 papers are about polar bears because they contain the words “polar bear” but you don’t think the PhD thesis is about polar bears, presumably because it only contains 6 paragraphs about bears and appears to include the 2003 paper as an appendix. Clearly it’s the words “polar bear” that are important in some inverse respect.

    Again my mistake, Alan, you think the PhD isn’t about bears but it might have been if they hadn’t been cut out. Glad to sort that out.

    So all but one of you think the PhD is about bears, excluding Paul – maybe because he thinks it has too much about bears – and Alan – because the stuff about bears was probably removed. Is that about it?

    “I presume you have read her non-peer reviewed paper. My question is – does this paper present data, analyse it and produce useful conclusions – in other words does it appear to have been written by someone who is an expert?”

    Define useful. The paper relates poorly quantified populations to total Arctic sea ice decline and draws sweeping conclusions. As I said before, polar bear populations depend upon sea ice in their locality (which can be large). They don’t care about the amount of sea ice in the Fram straight if they live in Baffin bay, for example. If she’d compared population dynamics in each of the 19 groups to sea ice in their respective are, she might have done something ‘useful’. As it is she did something totally crass and expects to be respected for it instead of ridiculed.

    On teeth. How do you know the identification is correct? On speculative origin, her book on her theory of thyroid rhythms and evolution (to which the diagram relates) or whatever was canned as presenting no evidence for her speculations. Speculation doesn’t make you an expert.


  8. That’s weak even by your unimaginably low standards,Len. You cannot even suggest alternative interpretations. I guess it’s hard earning a living washing cars when there’s snow and ice around but perhaps you could read more and think more. Even better if you could ignore the advice of climate scientists and restrict your knowledge to things that you know and can conceive. The inconceivable future of Kenny and Hayhoe is just too amusing


  9. Lenny, Lenny, Lenny. Try to concentrate more when reading long sentences.
    I’ll try to be more helpful.

    About Susan Crockford’s thesis
    I agreed with you
    I agreed with you.
    I agreed with you.
    Susan Crockford’s thesis was not about polar bears.
    I wrote: “I have already commented that the thesis does not concern itself primarily with polar bears”.
    [I know, the sentence is a bit long but try].
    However, I gave two reasons why you should not use the thesis as evidence that Susan Crockford was not a polar bear expert.
    [Don’t bother with them, they are too complicated for you]
    [ Stop now! Rest awhile: we don’t want your brain to explode].

    About Susan Crockford’s paper
    “Define useful”
    Len, if you don’t know what “useful” means about big complicated sciency papers, what are you doing up late at night reading them?
    Snuggle up with your teddy.
    If you think Susan is wrong, write a comment to her about it.
    I’m sure she will be kind
    Use an alias

    On teeth
    “How do you know the identification is correct?”
    Well Lenny I tend to believe a claim made by someone who has identified Arctic bones and teeth for a living for many years.
    Translation : I do.

    On speculative origin,
    “her book on her theory of thyroid rhythms and evolution (to which the diagram relates) or whatever was canned as presenting no evidence for her speculations.”
    Did you get Mommy to write that bib, big sentence?
    Diagram is not from her book.
    Diagram nothing to do with thyroid rhythms.
    Thyroid rhythm theory is not disproven.

    “Speculation doesn’t make you an expert”.
    Oh Lenny, just how wrong can you be?
    All experts speculate.


  10. Thanks Alan, MIAB and Paul. An interesting subpart of why Cliscep is difficult – part of what this series is about, in case that’s not clear! – is how best to handle trolls, especially when they engage in what are, in effect, personal attacks. Paul has started to defend his position inline on my thread – something he is very welcome to do, as I did the same on a couple of his recently! This I see as a useful organic development of the moderation rules of the core team, which helps to ensure we don’t actually delete such criticism very often. (I did on Christmas Day last year. ‘Tis the season to be jolly after all! But I do see wisdom in not doing so very often, not least because even from the worst troll some criticisms can be valid or at least worth consideration.)

    Len’s choice here to keep narrowing in on polar bears and Dr Crockford’s credentials, when my post, with all respect to Susan, doughty fighter on behalf of scientific integrity, was about a lot more than that, is both typical and slightly strange. Because you could certainly say I was giving some ground to the ‘other side’ on how expert we can ever expect to be on many issues outside climate. But there we go. I guess the fightback from Susan Crockford in recent weeks, assisted by many others, including thriving polar bears, may have seriously put the willies up climate enforcement. The good news may be getting better.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Richard. I personally would welcome the in-line commentary used slightly more often. It can add embellishments – critique, explanation and asides right up where they apply. I might suggest you add a time stamp to avoid the claim that Len made that changes were made long after. [Good idea – as of 5:42pm!]
    I believe that more in-line commentary could add a thread through and linking discussions, especially when, as happened recently, several discussions are on very similar topics and are running concurrently. In-line comments also would constitute an additional form of “likes” (the mod likes what I wrote). I must admit to looking who has garnered “likes” and preen when it has been me.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ClimateOtter: The pleasure was all mine. There are some interesting wider points here, triggered by Alan, on Cliscep moderation. We are going to be mulling them over I’m sure.


  13. Richard et al. If you want a sounding board…. willing to help. [The datestamping won’t help those convinced of bad faith on the part of one or more moderator so may not be worth the candle. But the points about kudos/preening and linking themes in different threads are I think valuable. But I expect the New Year is when we’ll talk about it. Thanks.]


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