Update: Well, don’t you just hate it when Christmas cheer pre-empts the climate wars and amity breaks out like a rash… After my laments about censorship and taking the opportunity to get a bit self-righteous about it all, Bart published my comment and made a cordial response below. Thanks Hans Erren for pointing this out.
Bart Verheggen is an aerosol scientist who has maintained a weblog called ‘My View On Climate Change’ for about a decade. He is a staunch supporter of the climate consensus, but has always been friendly and amenable to conducting a vigorous debate in the comments section of his weblog.
He is also one of the authors of an execrable piece of junk science, a paper called “Internet Blogs, Polar Bears and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy.”
At Bart’s weblog is he busier than he probably wants to be defending the paper, with two posts here and here. Sadly, after a decade of open participation by all in discussion of climate science, Bart is now selectively deleting comments from his critics. Here’s one:
“Before I forget, Bart–Merry Christmas to you and yours!
On with the discussion, then.
1. What nobody has disputed is that among the authors of this paper are two gentleman who have produced a prodigious number of papers on polar bears. Those papers come to decidedly different conclusions than Dr.Crockford about the near and long-term health of the species.
2. Because their disagreement is related to climate change the dispute carried over into the blogosphere, with appropriate side choosing by different blogs.
3. One of the conceits of this paper is that the authors feel qualified to label publications as equivalent to denying the Holocaust occurred. This might possibly be taken as evidence that the authors are just a bit biased towards a certain outcome.
4. The two prolific authors who also participated in this exercise constitute the bulk of the consensus position. Weblogs that link to them are considered ‘science-supporting.’ Weblogs that link to Dr. Crockford’s work are considered ‘Denialister Spawns of Satan,’ or some such appellation. Again, it is easy to see how this might inspire criticism from the contrarians among us, or at least another paper from Dr. Lewandowsky (I can suggest a title–‘Re-Ursus Furry.’)
4. The charged nature of the climate change debate is a sufficient predictor of which side of the dispute between Crockford, Sterling and little in the way of mathematics is required to identify the different groups in advance. In any case, argumentation is assuredly circular–citing scientists who support one’s position being common to either side.
5. It is pernicious to use political labeling as an apparent result of a scientific investigation. Calling your opponents deniers does more than open yourself up to accusations of bias. It also denigrates and perhaps defames those you criticize. There has been a concerted effort for 12 years to associate those who dispute the consensus with those who denied the Holocaust occurred. A good portion of the conversation about the use of the word has occurred on this weblog. As you do not define the term it is just name-calling. As you characterized the weblogs prior to analyzing the polar bear issue, it amounts to using insults as confirmation bias.
6. I run (ran–it is mostly inactive) a weblog called The Lukewarmer’s Way. Would you, Bart (or did you) classify the blog as a denier blog? I ask because I discussed polar bears on occasion there. When I did so, I certainly tried to offer both sides of the issue for examination. One example from 2015: “The ‘consensus’ view is here, a skeptical view here and what may be a synthesis view here. Readers are warned that I personally believe each of those views are more political than anything else.” (https://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/polar-bears-antarctic-ice-and-the-silence-of-the-lambs/)
7. As a lukewarmer, my reaction to the conclusion of your paper is pretty much ‘duh.’ Contrarians link to a contrarian position expressed by a scientist. Consensus supporters link to positions expressed by consensus scientists. The consensus group is larger than the contrarian group and is published more widely. Hence the consensus weblogs have a wider range of publications to refer to.
8. It appears clear that the decisions you reached in the formulation of your study prejudiced your examination, that the body of publications you researched is too small to support the types of mathematical analysis you attempted and that the paper suffers mightily as a result.
9. The fact that political supporters of your political point of view have arrived to insult their opponents is unsurprising, but hardly edifying.
Bart, I have harshly criticized this paper on your weblog and elsewhere. I have been (and remain) dumbfounded that someone I respect as much as I respect you could be associated with it. It eerily reminds me of Stephen Schneider’s association with Anderegg, Prall et al PNAS 2010. I would like you, if you have time, to explain your thinking about why you participated in this exercise.
Most importantly, again–Merry Christmas to you and your family.”
A confident consensus doesn’t need to suppress opposing points of view. The proprietor of a weblog certainly has the right to choose who gets to comment on their site. However, both readers and commenters surely deserve to know who is permitted (and more importantly who is forbidden) to comment.