Climate Science Parasites

For a second time, a letter has appeared in the journal Science urging scientists to action regarding climate change. “Because of the physics of the climate system, we must ensure that global emissions of greenhouse gases peak and start to decline rapidly within a decade in order to have a reasonable chance of meeting the 2°C goal,” urge the authors, noting that “humankind has waffled and delayed for decades; further delay risks serious consequences for people and the ecosystems on which we rely.” What is not immediately obvious is who these correspondents are. While some are legitimate scientists, a number turn out to be from somewhat nebulous organizations and institutions. They are philosophers, ethicists and “decision scientists” who have turned shilling for climate disaster into a career. They grow like a tapeworm within the bowels of science—they are climate science parasites.

In 2009, a number of climate change activists sent a letter to Science, bemoaning the ability of society to make use of scientific knowledge and urging scientists to form an organized, dumbed-down front when communicating with non-scientists regarding climate change. At that time, this blog labeled the authors climate change spin doctors. Evidently, the results of that naked appeal for help in bamboozling the public were insufficient, since a number of the same people have again written to Science with a new appeal for expanded scientific subterfuge. This new request has caused me to relabel the offending authors science parasites, for the reasons explained below.

Parasite:

  1. An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.
  2. One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return.

Consider the list of authors of the letter, entitled “Time to Take Action on Climate Communication,”:Thomas E. Bowman, Edward Maibach, Michael E. Mann, Richard C. J. Somerville, Barry J. Seltser, Baruch Fischhoff, Stephen M. Gardiner, Robert J. Gould, Anthony Leiserowitz and Gary Yohe. Naturally, the name of Michael “hockey stick” Mann jumps out, immediately making the letter suspect. The inventor of “hiding the decline” continues to turn up where ever the climate change faithful congregate. But it is the strange collection of lesser known signatories that reveals a more nuanced approach to lying about climate change. Take Thomas Bowman, for instance.

Bowman's online CV lists his education as consisting of a BA and a Master of Arts in “Religion: Social Ethics,” from the School of Religion, UCLA. In 1988 he founded the Bowman Design Group and since then has been associated with a number of organizations with names like Bowman Global Change and, most recently, The Climate Solutions Project. According to its website, Bowman Global Change “has been established to help organizations make sustainable transformations.” The stated goal of the Climate Solutions Project to develop public intervention strategies with a blue-ribbon team of experts in climate science, social science, economics, ethics and social marketing.

The Climate Solutions Project's website only shows a “under construction” page, but that not withstanding the CSP was named as a finalist for the “prestigious” Buckminster Fuller Challenge. “The Bowman-led initiative is a touring festival and exhibition that explores the risks and potential solutions to the climate crisis,” explains one account. The same source declares Bowman “one of the premier interpreters of climate and energy science.” In other words, Bowman is a non-scientist cheerleader for the climate change lobby, a man who makes his living frightening people with climate disaster and offering moral absolution for a price.

Examine some of the other organizational associations listed with the letter:

  • Center for Climate Change Communication, Department of Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.

  • Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

  • Department of Philosophy and Program on Values in Society, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

  • Partnership for Prevention, Washington, DC.

  • Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

  • Department of Economics and College of the Environment, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.

These are not institutions or organizations involved in the science of climate, but rather groups that are in the business of convincing others what to think about climate change. Much like a military installation quickly spawns a surrounding collection of sleazy bars, pawn shops and hookers, climate science has attracted its own supporting sub-culture of questionable individuals. That is not to say that such individuals are useless or that the fields they claim to represent are worthless. Case in point: Social and Decision Sciences (SDS).

According to Baruch Fischhoff, director of the SDS program at CMU and one of the Science letter's authors, “the interdisciplinary field of Decision Science seeks to understand and improve judgment and decision making of individuals, groups, and organizations.” Fischoff, one of the founders of the field of decision science, holds a BS in mathematics and psychology from Wayne State University and an MA and PhD in psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here is how he describes the SDS program on the department website:

Course content in the Decision Science major will foster understanding of: (a) the cognitive, emotional, social, and institutional factors that influence judgment and choice, (b) normative (economic) models of rational choice, and (c) how judgment and decision making can be predicted and/or improved.

Applications of Decision Science research abound. For example, research insights are being used to improve medical decision making (e.g., conveying costs and benefits of alternative treatment options to patients), legal decision making (e.g., understanding the effects of anger on attributions of responsibility), large-scale risk assessments (e.g., assessing risks of nuclear power), marketing (e.g., understanding the effects of emotion) and managerial decision making (e.g., correcting common errors and biases in the assessment of risk).

A strange blend of psychology, sociology, economics and ethics. While this is no doubt an interesting field of study, it in no way provides an understanding of fundamental physical science. A practitioner of this field is no more qualified to be guiding the public's decisions regarding climate change than any other non-scientist.

This is yet another example of the “squishy” sciences that have sprung up in academia over the past couple of centuries. Since people started to find science useful, many scholars have laid claim to the title scientist. Being a scientist sounds much more prestigious and it is easier to rake in those research grants. This has led to all sorts of fields tacking science on to their names: political science, social science and now decision science. Sorry, but I do not accept those as scientific disciplines.

Science, from the Latin scientia (meaning “knowledge”), is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the natural world. Science is the business of discovering and defining the “laws of nature.” In other words, how the Universe works. Chemistry, physics, biology and geology are science, the so called social sciences are not. I know that some will argue that the natural sciences and the empirical sciences both deserve the sobriquet “science.” I think this is a misleading convention.

In some fields, efforts have been made to suborn science with little success. Marxists in particular tried to make a science of history, primarily to provide cover for their otherwise unsupportable economic and social ideas. Marx and Engels both use the term historical materialism to refer to the science of history, or the “science of the development of societies,” as Marx called it. In the end it was more a rhetorical device than anything else, a way to give Marxist thought a more authoritative sheen.

While it may seem that I am being overly pedantic, it is important to differentiate between fields of study that measure nature and those where humans are in the mix. It is a natural and empirically well-founded presumption that humans are free agents, meaning their actions cannot be predicted with certainty. Natural processes, however, are unequivocally deterministic and their behavior can therefore can be predicted. This applies even to quantum uncertainty and chaotic behavior, where bounds on uncertainty can be quantified and chaos characterized (electron tunneling is taken into account in solid-state electrical devices and chaos theory is really about finding underlying order).

While applying the scientific method of experimentation and verification to other fields may yield more closely reasoned and logically valid results, they do not turn the underlying field of study into a science. Apply statistics and the scientific method to sociology and you may get better sociology—what you will not get is social science.

Similarly, an ethicist is one whose judgment on ethics and moral codes has come to be trusted by a specific community. It is possible for a scientist to also be an ethicist, but being an ethicist does not make one a scientist. A communications specialist may be versed in how to best present knowledge, like a good director effectively translates a script into an ineligible movie. Again, helping to communicate a message does not make the facilitator competent to judge its content—ask any good propagandist. The Bowman et al. letter calls for non-scientists to promote one side in a primarily scientific debate—in effect, to become propagandists for climate change.

These new allies of the climate change alarmists are nothing more than later day sophists, skilled in elaborate and devious argumentation. In ancient Greece, in the second half of the 5th century BC, the term “sophist” was associated with a particular class of intellectuals who taught courses in various subjects. Among those subjects was how to employ rhetoric to persuade or convince others and generally achieve ones own purposes. A few sophists claimed that they could find the answers to all questions. The sophists became great social agitators, particularly in Athens.


Sophists plagued ancient Athens in the 5th century BC.

“Whether as calculated self-promotion, or from simple exuberance in their own virtuosity, or sometimes even because they had managed to persuade themselves, sophists loved to argue for the unsettling and the improbable,” states Nicholas Denyer, in the introduction of Plato: Protagoras. “Sophists did, however, have one important thing in common: whatever else they did or did not claim to know, they characteristically had a great understanding of what words would entertain or impress or persuade an audience.”

Many of them taught their skills for a price and some have called them the forerunners of modern lawyers—intellects for hire, who will argue either side of any dispute for money. Nowadays, the term “sophist” is used solely as a term of disdain, “for those who hope to get away with shoddy reasoning,” in Denyer's words. It would seem that they also have philosophical descendants in the field of social and decision science.

In an interview, Fischoff explained how he came to be involved with decisions regarding technology, the environment and public policy: “What I've found over the years is that—I’ll try to put this nicely—that the natural scientists have been so engaged in their parts of these questions that they really haven't had much of a place for social variables, much less the social sciences.”

I'll try to put this nicely—if there is still a raging debate over whether there is a problem within the natural sciences, there is no need for social and political “experts” to inject themselves into the argument or start formulating public policy. Given the weakness of the climate catastrophists' case and the overwhelming uncertainty in their projections, any participation by those who practice “non-persuasive communication” is unwarranted. And just what is non-persuasive communication?

According to Fischoff, “It has a discipline of trying to learn enough about people in order to provide them the few facts that are most essential to their decisions, in a way that makes sense to them and enables them to make decisions.” That is psychobable for filtering the facts to influence people in positions of power, helping them to arrive at conclusions you think are correct. Fischoff may claim neutrality, but look at the company he keeps—there is an agenda here and it is not to give all sides of the global warming debate a fair hearing.

Do not misunderstand, I am not disparaging those who study politics or sociology, and certainly not historians and philosophers—all have have their place in the realm of intellectual endeavor. But those who study the philosophy of science do not claim to have turned philosophy into a science. There is something fundamentally wrong with calling for the participation of a number of specialists from non-scientific fields in arguing the validity of specific scientific claims; claims that scientists themselves cannot agree on. That is effectively what the letter to Science has done—called for the participation of all manner of non-scientists in decision making based on climate science. This would totally eclipse the underlying scientific debate and effectively assume the claims of consensus climate science to be correct.

The initiative should be judged against two critical outcomes: (i) improved understanding of risks and potential solutions by people, organizations, and governments, and (ii) more informed decision-making—and less avoidance of decision-making—about how to manage those risks. The initiative should be an embodiment of what Fischhoff calls “non-persuasive communication.” It should not advocate specific policy decisions; good decision-making involves weighing the best available information with the values of the decision-makers and those affected by the decisions.

The initiative should recruit a full range of climate scientists, decision scientists, and communication professionals into the effort to ensure both sound scientific information and effective communication. In addition, it should build bridges to other communities of experts—such as clergy, financial managers, business managers, and insurers—who help people, organizations, and governments assess and express their values. Scientists and nonscientists alike inevitably interpret climate science information in the context of other information and values; the initiative should mobilize experts who can facilitate appropriate and useful interpretations.

They are judging the “risks” and “potential solutions”—that the risks are real and the solutions needed is preordained. And just what the hell do the values of the decision-makers have to do with deciding whether CO2 needs to be controlled? Either bad things will happen because of human CO2 emissions or they won't—values have nothing to do with it. Perhaps what they mean is that the “values” of people in the developing world demand a transfer of wealth from the industrial nations, as one UN official recently said. Lastly, guess who gets to judge what interpretations are “appropriate and useful?”

The most disturbing thing about this call for a massive public campaign to bolster action over climate change is who is making the call. Aside from scientists with dubious professional judgment, it comes from an army of hangers on, from private foundations, government agencies and academic enclaves. People who have marginal qualifications to join the global warming debate but are, in many cases, making a living from it.

President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex. Today we are faced with the government-scientific complex, a toxic blending of government bureaucracies, which fund and oversee scientific research at laboratories and universities, and big science, an equally bureaucratic collection of organizations and professional societies that purport to speak for scientists. An example of the inbred and incestuous relationship between government and big science can be seen in the new editor-in-chief of Science, Bruce Alberts.

For 12 years, Alberts served as the president of the US National Academy of Sciences. While technically a non-government organization, the NAS is sanctioned by an act of congress and performs scientific analysis for the US government. In his editorial in the December 1, 2010, issue he had this to say about science and public understanding:

Scientists are taught to challenge authority, and their responsible challenges to a consensus help science advance. Thus, adults should expect to find some scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on an issue. And they should appreciate why a strong scientific consensus, such as that about climate change, must nevertheless form the basis for making wise personal and community decisions, representing by far the best bet for predicting the future consequences of present actions.

In other words, we should expect to find a few kooks who don't trust the science behind climate change. Don't worry, just trust in our self proclaimed majority opinion. In making this pronouncement, this supposed senior statesman for the scientific community exhibits exactly the the type of bureaucratic group-think, cover-your-ass with consensus attitude that has led to the climate change debacle. Way too much going along with the majority and far too little real science.

It is often said that most scientists do their best work when they are young—while they are still ambitious iconoclasts looking to shake up the establishment by make astounding new discoveries. Regardless of age, major scientific advances are most often made by rebels, the stubborn dissenters from consensus, not the conventional thinkers who simply go with the flow. Sadly, elder scientists are often highly resistant to change, to the great detriment of science itself.

Reportedly, at the end of the 19th century, an elderly Lord Kelvin stated that there was nothing new to be discovered in physics, and that all that remained was more and more precise measurement. This was only a few years before the discovery of relativity, quantum physics, the big bang and the true size and age of the universe. Indeed, in the past 100+ years more discoveries have been made, and more outdated theories discarded, in all fields of scientific endeavor than any previous time in human history. New important and fundamental discoveries are being made every day in climate science, old theories disproven, and yet we are told to believe in the consensus that has persisted for decades.

In politics and society consensus is meaningful. In science consensus is a false god to be cast down by new, more enlightened discoveries. Those, who through their efforts strive to prop up outdated ideas, to blindly defend current wisdom, to support consensus, are not helpful to science or humanity.

If one organism takes from another but also returns something of benefit it is called a symbiont. If it merely takes and returns nothing of value, or harms its host, it is labeled a parasite. Mind control by a parasite sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but scientists have found that such things happen. One example of parasite mind control involves the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which essentially turns ants into zombies.


Like a parasitic ant fungus, science parasites are harmful to humanity.

After being infected with O unilateralis, the hapless victim remains alive for a short time. The fungus compels the ant to climb down from its nest high in the forest canopy, and onto small plants and saplings near the forest floor. The zombie ant then climbs onto the underside of a low-hanging leaf where it clamps down with its mandibles, biting into the major veins on the underside of the leaf just before it dies. Within a few days, the fungus grows a stalk from its victim's head, a stroma, which releases spores to infect more ants.

Scaremongering climate scientists, having failed to win the global warming debate on scientific grounds, have recruited a cadre of new helpers—psychologists, sociologists, PR firms, ethicists and image consultants—all with the aim of selling the world's political leaders (the “decision makers”) an idea that has already been rejected. It is their intention to gain political control by infecting the thoughts of world leaders with this false idea, much like the fungus that infects ant brains. The parasites wish to redirect the efforts of the world's people, to make the world over in ways more to their own liking. This is more than just a fight against bad science, it has become a struggle against the climate science parasites for the future of human civilization.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Parasites

You are too kind. Parasites are naturally occurring creatures, they are what they are and noting more. Like all things in science they have not motives or goals except self preservation. That is in and of itself just that and nothing more. It is when those parasites and or others ascribe some quality to themselves that can not be supported by empirical data that we who follow the philosophy of science and the scientific method must do as you have done, stand and be counted. Thank you.

I have written many short essays examining the philosophy and science and the communication of that science and philosophy to the public discourse. (http://retreadresources.com/blog) From my essay Scientism:

"Scientism or the "Church of Science" is a fictional religion from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series. I don't know if Asimov took the name from Friedrich Hayek (1980) or Karl Popper or they got it from him, it matters not. "Scientism is the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life." (Sorell, 1994) Philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, use it to describe what they see as the underlying attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists, whereby the study and methods of natural science have risen to the level of ideology.(Outhwaite, 1988) The classic statement of scientism is from the physicist Ernest Rutherford: "there is physics and there is stamp-collecting." (Crane, 2003)"

I think it is clear you Parasites are simply sophists and propagandists of Scientism. Those who would practice is homage to a "false god" forfeit their right to call themselves scientist, they simply give the rest of us a bad name.

Dennis Nikols, P. Geol.

Eisenhower

Very excellent article!

These people are motivated by something other than objective scientific facts. They are motivated by faith. I don't have a problem with faith. But I don't think it has a place in scientific endeavors.

Isn't it ironic that these champions of reason are trying to set themselves up as the Inquisitors of their faith!

By the way, Eisenhower made another comment in his 'Military Industrial Complex' speech:

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite".

A statement equally relevant in today's world to the more often quoted portion of his speech!

Elderly scientists

While not yet elderly, I find the comment about older scientists to be inaccurate. Often once emeritus status is reached scientists are actually able to speak their minds. They are able to do this simply because the need to fit into the "groupthink" of the Department or School they are at is no longer necessary. Ostracism is no longer a concern and this is the greatest negative effect we see with climate science these days in that if you do not agree with the majority you risk ridicule, ostracism and a lack of respect of your grant proposals because you are a "wakcy thinking radical with crazy ideas about "real" science". True honesty is only available to those starting out because they are naive and arrogant or those at the end of their career because they no longer care about what people think about them or how it will affect them, simply because it no longer does affect them.

Age and scientific achievement

Do not misunderstand, I am not claiming that older scientists are useless or that they do not continue to do useful work. Hell, I'm an older scientist. I still come up with ideas for dissertation topics for students I work with and I continue to collaborate on papers (I just got done doing revisions to one on using EMD for workload forecasting). But, though I know I am more knowledgeable and less prone to oversights and errors now, I also know that I am not as “sharp” as I was in my 20s and 30s—sudden flashes of insight come less frequently than in my younger days.

I agree that both younger scientists and retired ones have less social and professional baggage to weigh them down. A professor emeritus, a full professor who retires in good standing, may indeed feel liberated enough to speak his or her mind—and what does that say about the influence of peer pressure within the ranks of working academics? That point aside, there have, in fact, been papers published that attempt to explain why “genius” diminishes with age. According to “Why productivity fades with age: The crime–genius connection,” by Satoshi Kanazawa:

The biographies of 280 scientists indicate that the distribution of their age at the time of their greatest scientific contributions in their careers (age–genius curve) is similar to the age distribution of criminals (age–crime curve). The age–genius curves among jazz musicians, painters and authors are also similar to the age–crime curve. Further, marriage has a strong desistance effect on both crime and genius. I argue that this is because both crime and genius stem from men’s evolved psychological mechanism which compels them to be highly competitive in early adulthood but “turns off” when they get married and have children. Fluctuating levels of testosterone, which decreases when men get married and have children, can provide the biochemical microfoundation for this psychological mechanism. If crime and genius have the same underlying cause, then it is unlikely that social control theory (or any other theory specific to criminal behavior) can explain why men commit crimes and why they desist.

I don't see his explanation as definitive, but the age distribution statistics back up my general hypothesis. It has been noted that older scientists publish more papers, though that may be because they are involved in directing research by many younger scientists. It also does not say anything about the content or importance of the work described by those papers. There is, however, some indication that the average age at which scientists make “big” discoveries is trending higher. According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the trend is for significant contributions to be made later in life:

  • During the 20th century, the average age at which researchers made the accomplishments that were later honored with Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine and economics increased by 5.83 years.

  • During the 20th century, the average age at which researchers made "great" technological achievements rose by 4.86 years, while the age of those achieving a first patent—for more average inventors—went up by 6.57 years.

This report also notes that there is a trend toward more multi-author papers and more authors per paper than before. Reportedly, between 1995 and 2005, group papers had twice as many citations as those authored by individuals. And comparing “home run papers”—those with at least 100 citations—team papers are more than four times as likely to produce such impact.

It could be that the ever increasing complexity of scientific research is leading to a time when contributions by single scientists will diminish, but I always recall a statement about system design by one of my mentors, Fred Brooks. He said that really great designs came either from a single mind or a few minds in close agreement. I believe this to be true for science in general—great theories do not flow from committees. But then, that is a different argument all together.

Older!

I was going to take issue with you Doug but your follow up clears the air, so to speak!

As an engineer I can only say I actually despise how that title has now been bastardised. At one time it was an honored title but these days even bin men (bless them, they do a great job!) are referred to as waste disposal engineers!

I come across so many people in my electrical field with the title "Engineer". They cannot truly explain Ohms Law other than as a formula!

I am in the "Grumpy Old Man" era so I suppose I should bow out with grace and leave the mess to be sorted out by the truly gifted people that have not been lied to and decived. They must be out there! I pray that they are and can stand up to the politics!

Cut the funding

It's time to cut the funding for anything with the world "climate" in it. I know that might take out some valid research but the field of so called climate science is so tainted now I think it's impossible to sort out the good from the bad.

We need to reduce government-

We need to reduce government- rather than focus a cutting funding for anything to with climate.
Funding for govt will eventually be reduced because whole system will fail- and that will have dire consequences [or perhaps more accurately, will accompany dire consequences].

If the entire system were to not eventually fail, I would not suggest reducing government.
Nothing good has ever come from totalitarianism and the world survived the soviet collapse, but whether it will survive a US\Western collapse begs the question of what meant by term survive. It won't be an improvement.