The value of ‘open debate’

by

A lot of people have commented that they were happy to see “truly open debate” here. But I’m wondering: Has the second half of the long discussion on this global temperature thread been constructive?

I am of two minds on this one. It is interesting to hear other viewpoints, and to learn something new along the way. But it’s frustrating to respond to the same lame claim a dozen of times. As if the presence of a unit root would falsify the whole edifice of anthropogenic global warming (no, it does not). As if there’s no evidence for AGW (yes, there is plenty). As if scientists have all conspired to skew the evidence (no, they haven’t. Still not). As if climate science doesn’t follow the scientific methods (yes, it does. Slides here (from slide nr 30 onwards)). As if there’s no scientific consensus on AGW (yes, there is. Overwhelmigly so).

Lots of people set up an argument, devoid of any substance or relevance, and yet draw far reaching conclusions to the effect that a whole scientific field is radically wrong. If that’s not an example of hubris I don’t know what is. Yet in the same breath they accuse the scientists and/or me of being arrogant. Nou breekt mijn klomp! (“Now my clogg breaks”)

I don’t want to start moderating the comments more tightly, but I certainly understand that others blogs do. If you’re bombarded with non-sensible arguments and baseless accusations the whole time, then discussion becomes pointless and you’re wasting a lot of time responding. I don’t have the feeling those who make sweeping statements as in the examples above are open to an honest discussion of the science. Their mind seems made up. I’m aware that they would probably claim the same about me. In such cases there are not many options left besides agreeing to disagree. I’m all for building bridges and finding common ground. But it’s also obvious that some distances are just too wide to be bridged.

So back to the beginning: Are people happy with the discussion because “for once, a ‘warmist’ allowed us to say whatever we wanted to say”? Or was there real value to it? Mind you, when the discussion was on substance, I enjoyed it. But when it got sidetracked in merely repeating talking points and accusations, it got tedious.

See also this very insightful comment from Robert Grumbine about the scientific culture and the blog culture (which he describes as ‘having a beer’). He also has a post about the difference between discussion and debate (where we gradually changed from the former to the latter on the busy thread).

Now if you really want to contest the four examples I gave above, please try to build a coherent argument based on evidence. Otherwise, I suggest we agree to disagree.

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72 Responses to “The value of ‘open debate’”

  1. Scott Mandia Says:

    I prefer that you moderate comments. If you do so, then you should come up with guidelines so that commentors know what is allowed and what is not and those rules should be prominently displayed.

  2. Tom Fuller Says:

    I think there’s plenty of room for improvement by commenters, but I also think that an open space for people is quite useful. I’m learning–slowly and painfully–how to ignore those who are merely trying to incite a riot or dismiss all who disagree with them in one breath. When I’m successful at that I can just skim over their ‘contributions’ and move back to the meat of the discussion.

    The discussions on the ‘random walk’ issue were particularly interesting to me because (for a while, until the trolls showed up) there was a good-natured discussion in fairly plain English about a topic that did not have to be controversial from the outset. I know just enough about statistics to understand that VS was using the term ‘random walk’ as a descriptor of the behaviour of a subset of data and not attacking the tenets of climate change. I also knew just enough to recognise that the issue has serious implications for some of the claims that are made regarding climate change, particularly in terms of error bands. This kept me coming back for more.

    There are trolls on both sides, although I pay more attention to the ones who have jumped all over me in the past, such as dhogaza, eli rabett, marco, etc. Their arrival en masse (along with trolls from the skeptic community) drastically changed the nature of the discussion. On a positive note, after their initial sallies failed to divert the discussion into a he-said, she-said food fight, I note that rabett left and dhogaza actually made some useful contributions to the discussion.

    I think trolls make us work harder to get through a discussion. I think having an open forum such as yours is worth the extra effort. I hope you will conclude the same thing.

  3. dhogaza Says:

    Skeptical science does a good job with moderation, but I’m sure it takes him a lot of time (I think he’s retired, perhaps?). But that might be a good model.

  4. Scott Mandia Says:

    dhogaza,

    John Cook has 11 other moderators helping him and these moderators are spread over various time zones.

  5. dhogaza Says:

    Oh, I didn’t realize that. Back in the early days of photo.net I was one of three moderators, and it ended up taking a couple of hours a day before I gave it up.

    It’s a load even when the subject matter isn’t particularly controversial (though “nikon vs. canon” can lead to a lot of heat and little light) …

  6. steven mosher Says:

    If you set up fair rules for comments and enforce them openly and fairly then you find that regular visitors will self moderate over time. That’s my experience.
    Your biggest problem will generally be new comers who don’t understand your rules of the road. On way to handle this is to moderate or Snip after the fact. people get to witness the bad behavior and they get to see the bad behavior corrected

    behaviors that tend to lead to derailments.

    Thread Jacking
    OT comments.
    Motive hunting
    Personal attacks between commenters.
    Piling on.

    I’ve done all of the above, for the record. The issue with an open debate is simply this. You either believe your opponents are convinceable ( rational)
    or not. If you think there is a possibility that you can convince them then an open dialog ( subject to civility restrictions above ) is a good option. If you think they are not rational, then I suppose under certain moral schemes any action you take against them would be sanctioned or permissible. If you think that they are not rational, but they in fact are, then you run the risk of destroying your own credibility. This goes to the rhetorical stance you wish to take. Do you want to organize a group of like minded people and arm them with ways of thinking about things and controlling or channelling group behavior ( a perfectly sensible rhetorical goal) or do you want to convince people who are undecided? or switch people who are decided against you? or ridicule them? Do you want to hold an “cocktail party” type discussion? a classroom? a seminar? All perfectly acceptable forms of verbal behavior.
    The more clear you can be about your rhetorical intentions ( who is speaking to whom for what purpose ) the better decision you can make about moderation.

    WRT the scientific method Slide show you linked to. That was an interesting
    and informative way to look at the question. Turning each of those sections into a dedicated post might be interesting. Im not sure you took time to review it. There may be some unfortunate statements there that bear examination: For example:

    2005: Most intense hurricane season in history
    •Most tropical and subtropical storms (28)
    •Record number (15) became hurricanes
    •Record number (4) became category 5
    –Most “retired”names
    •Katrina: Costliest ($100 billion damages)
    •Wilma: Lowest pressure ever recorded in an
    Atlantic hurricane
    •Hurricane season continued long past “official end”
    –Official end is Nov. 30, storms continued into January

    Climate models
    predicted
    intensification of
    hurricanes, caused in
    increase in sea surface
    temperature, well
    before 2005

    And of course, Someone might compare that to this to the latest finding in 2010:

    “Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate — and if so, how — has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6–34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre. For all cyclone parameters, projected changes for individual basins show large variations between different modelling studies.”

    Now this of course doesnt mean that all scientists do or don’t follow the scientific method. I’m just pointing out that the source you cited on this issue
    wasn’t perhaps the best way to make an argument I generally believe in. That the method is followed, generally. Selecting Hurricanes to demonstrate this point is not exactly putting your best rhetorical foot forward. However, it has other rhetorical appeals. Finally, because the method is followed generally, we should have no fear about making corrections when necessary and crediting those corrections to the people who suggested them. Even if their name is one that you have said you will never use.

  7. Fred2 Says:

    Any relation?

    http://www.necn.com/03/21/10/Dutch-artist-installs-climate-change-scu/landing_arts.html?blockID=201577&feedID=4214

    [Reply: Nope. BV]

  8. VS Says:

    I think the ‘open debate’ is going great, Bart :) Take a closer look at who we have talking to each other.

    Nice work.

  9. John Whitman Says:

    Hello Bart,

    Several points:

    1) I may have been to your site incidentally in the past ~1 year, but I don’t recall it. But, I will always recall it fondly now. : )

    2) I was alerted to the your site’s thread involving VS from a commenter on WUWT last week. It fasinated me completely for days and still does. It had all the elements that make science blogging so valuable. Thank you Bart.

    3) You provided moderation that let the discourse proceed. VS and those who chose to associate themselves with his ideas/thinking were civil, yet I sensed some tension in your moderation toward them. Why?

    4) Science is essentially argumentative. Where there is a lot of argument there is stimulation and self correction of science. I appreciated you allowing this. Thanks again.

    5) Your website has now moved up a significant notch. If you want to stay there or not is of course solely your decision. I think you need help in moderation and need to set up (as Mosher suggested above) fair rules. It is your site, what do you want it to be? There are plenty of pro-AGW sites, plenty of warmer sites, plenty of so-called ‘skeptic’ sites. Your site will be one out of many in whichever of those stereotypes you pick. Or perhaps abandon those stereotypes and just be open science, letting it take you wherever the best scientific ideas take you. You already started down that path. Sincere good luck.

    FYI – I consider myself be an objective independent [education and lifelong trade is engineering), though of course in online discussions my objectivity/independence always is subject to argument, as it should be.

    John

    [Reply: I’ll have to think about it. As to nr 3, I think I gave the answer in this post. BV]

  10. Alan Wilkinson Says:

    Bart, open debate is essential. I refuse to read sites which block it. Moreover I believe they are entirely counter-productive to the causes they espouse. (Tamino, RC and Romm being primary examples I have encountered.)

    Civility is also essential as is focus on the topic or at least relevant side-tracks. I agree with Steve Mosher that clear rules combined with a bit of heavy breathing and after the fact public execution will probably keep most on the rails without too much effort.

    In the thread cited I found dhogaza’s comments repetitive, off-topic and irritating to the point where I simply skipped over them all without reading them or anything which referred to them. I also felt your excessively repetitive “Replies” that AGW was not being refuted rather showed your discomfort with the analysis than contributed usefully. A moderator of an open debate must suffer somewhat stoically or make a detailed objective contribution. Editorial sniping is a turn-off.

    That’s my thoughts. Judge them as you will.

    [Reply: I was indeed busy replying to comments that I considered “repetitive, off-topic and irritating” (because they merely existed of regurgitating empty talking points). I am considering disallowing those because they add nothing to the discussion. There’s plenty of other sites that are happy to be a collection of talking points; mine doesn’t need to be one of them. BV]

  11. Steve Koch Says:

    I second John Whitman’s thoughts. The idea is to produce an environment for an intelligent, informed, polite, non-defensive, open discussion. VS added so much to the discussion, he made the thread.

  12. Magnus W Says:

    I have fond that moderating them makes the threads better and more constructive… Fewer comments but other kind of questions and no repeating of the same old cherry’s and myths, I also get more time for other posts…

  13. Scott Mandia Says:

    Although I agree in spirit with John Whitman, I still think “light” moderation makes the blog more informative. It would be very easy for somebody with an axe to grind to inundate the site with pointless comments. Keep the “spam” out.

  14. MartinM Says:

    Normally, I’d be all for deleting spam, but the above should definitely get a pass for the sake of irony.

  15. DirkH Says:

    [Reply: I was indeed busy replying to comments that I considered “repetitive, off-topic and irritating” (because they merely existed of regurgitating empty talking points). I am considering disallowing those because they add nothing to the discussion. There’s plenty of other sites that are happy to be a collection of talking points; mine doesn’t need to be one of them. BV]

    In that case, do it like climateaudit – McIntyre snips a lot of what he deems unconstructive with a simple [piling on] remark. Just let people know the general reason you’re snipping it.

    [Reply: Reminded me of this post, characterizing the CA coments section. BV]

  16. Scott A. Mandia Says:

    I swear I didn’t invite this spam to reinforce my comment. LOL. :)

  17. steven mosher Says:

    Bart,

    Snipping is a good practice. Again look at CA for how it is done. Also, shewonk
    displayed a bunch of the typical bad behaviors over at CA. So you can look at that if you want to understand thread jacking and flame wars. The first case happened a few years back when she stumbled onto the site and insulted everyone. Steve let it go on for a while and then after warning people he “zambonied” the threads. A short while ago she showed up again and violated the rules repeatedly and after warnings continued to violate rules. I guess when I reminded Steve of her prior behavior and the threads that had to be zambonied because of the flame wars, she was no longer able to post. Go figure. And of course she started a her own blog. So, as in all cases it’s usually not advisible to characterize an entire blog from one thread, a few samples here or there will give you an idea of the span of responses you get.
    And its best to get your evidence from a variety of places. I can show you some real bad behavior on my part at CA. Again, if you want advice on how to do this, it might be a good idea to ask people who have spent more than a little time doing it. or not.
    Of course, blogs like mails, can be read out of context and any bias can be confirmed. generally, I’d eschew things that are said to “epitomize” something as complex and dynamic as human communication and especially a blog with over 1000 posts.

    [Reply: Good point. BV]

  18. JMurphy Says:

    Anything along the lines of “the world has been cooling since…” or “they had to change the term from Global Warming to Climate Change…” – or any such similar non-referenced assertions – do not need to appear on your site (as they do on so many other ones), and I think you would be doing everyone a favour by deleting/snipping such crass diversions.

    [Reply: I tend to agree, but the challenge is where to draw the line. BV]

  19. Alex Heyworth Says:

    # dhogaza Says:
    March 21, 2010 at 19:07

    It’s a load even when the subject matter isn’t particularly controversial (though “nikon vs. canon” can lead to a lot of heat and little light) …

    They see things through a different lens ….

    Sorry!

    Back on topic, I think you need to play it by ear, Bart. The thread that seems to be concerning you generated a lot more interest than most, and hence a little “heat”. But there was plenty of real meat there as well.

    One of the questions you need to ask yourself is how much traffic you can handle (in terms of moderating). If your traffic level reverts to normal you may find that moderating is less of an issue than you might be inclined to think at the moment.

    My advice: think about it for a while and see what happens. You may decide to change nothing. On the other hand, if things continue to be a bit “unruly”, the advice of others above to do a bit of snipping would seem sensible.

  20. Alex Heyworth Says:

    PS, what you post and how frequently you post will also have a big influence on the signal to noise ratio in comments.

  21. John Whitman Says:

    Bart,

    RE: your pending decision on ‘open debate’ on your site.

    In blogs I often love to quote the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Less Traveled’.

    It feels appropriate here:

    “I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference”

    Good luck.

    John

  22. dhogaza Says:

    I can show you some real bad behavior on my part at CA.

    Not satisfied with this, “Piltdown Mann” Mosher has written an entire book devoted to displaying his bad behavior …

  23. dhogaza Says:

    A short while ago she showed up again and violated the rules repeatedly and after warnings continued to violate rules.

    Yet the rules there don’t rule against continuous insulting and slanderous comments that climate scientists are engaged in fraud, that Michael Mann is a dishonest as those who planted Piltdown Man, etc etc.

    Mosher has an odd sense of morality that I would hope our host does not adopt.

  24. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, dhogaza, at least Mosher doesn’t lie about how he’s treated on other sites. Like you falsely claiming I deleted your posts.

  25. Alex Heyworth Says:

    dhogaza Says:
    March 23, 2010 at 05:39

    Yet the rules there don’t rule against continuous insulting and slanderous comments that climate scientists are engaged in fraud, that Michael Mann is a dishonest as those who planted Piltdown Man, etc etc.

    This is simply untrue. Steve Mc is very strict about any attempts to impute motive. If you have actually been reading his blog, rather than your statement above repeating what you have heard from others, you have been using a very strange framework to interpret it.

    [Reply: Perhaps not imputing motive, but thinly veiled accusations are common. I looked a little into his style of argument re the Yamal story and was not impressed. Other posts with title such as “Is Gavin Schmidt honest?” or “Try not to puke.” are also telling. BV]

  26. Richard Drake Says:

    The only reason to add anything to this remarkable debate is to say thank you. But to whom? The options seem to be BV, VS and shall we call her SB, for reasons of economy.

    BV deserves thanks but I think perhaps is considering jacking it all in. Without VS none of it would have happened – 629 responses, none of them by me, fancy that. As for SB, some say neither BV or VS would be here without her. But I’ve chosen her name to say that she, too, is willing to fit in, because that’s the only way open interaction is possible. Be sure that she too knows the pain as well as the joy involved in that.

    And with that I thank all three.

  27. Alex Heyworth Says:

    PS dhogaza, an extract from Steve Mc’s blog rules:

    Some Site Rules:
    I oppose the censoring of scientific comments at realclimate and do not do that here. Unfortunately, light moderation opens the door for ad homs and taunting, which quickly involves everybody. I don’t have time to monitor everything so my handling of taunting has been inconsistent: sometimes I’ve let it go because the person is just making a fool of himself, sometimes I’ve got fed up and deleted it. A reader has written with the following suggested ground rules which are hereby adopted:

    Blogs like this one provide a wonderful opportunity to people like me (a retired scientist) to get involved in an ongoing debate and it is very disappointing when the debate generates into one of these slanging matches. May I suggest some ground rules for posts:
    1. Refrain from personal abuse and swearing,
    2. Never attribute ulterior motives to another participant
    3. Be patient with people who know less science or maths than you do yourself.
    People who consistently break rule 1 and 2 should be issued with a yellow card by the moderator. If they continue they get a red card and are banned from the site.

    Steve does admit, as you will note, that he doesn’t have time to monitor everything. However, his rule is, no imputing motive.

  28. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Bart, while I’m here, could I put in a personal plea? If you are going to moderate your blog, please put the word “debunk” off limits. It seems to be the favorite of the moment in some circles, but is almost invariably misapplied. The word means “to expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of”, or “expose while ridiculing; especially of pretentious or false claims and ideas”. It should almost never be applied to someone’s response to an academic paper.

    If one mounts an argument against a paper, that is a rebuttal. If the arguments advanced in the rebuttal are sufficiently strong, it may constitute a refutation. But it hardly ever amounts to a debunking. In any case, ridicule is hardly appropriate in a formal response to an academic paper (and if the response is informal, it cannot even amount to a proper rebuttal, let alone a refutation).

    [Reply: Hmm, that’s not the association I had with the word, but that’s probably because I’m not a native speaker of English. The Dutch translation (ontzenuwen; ontmaskeren) sounds mostly like the more innocent “exposing the falseness”. I think in certain cases it’s an appropriate word (including the “ridicule”), such as the chicken-egg discussion some people seem intent on having. Though it’s good advice to not use it too freely. BV]

  29. Alex Heyworth Says:

    PS Bart, I notice that you used the word in the title of a recent post. I’ll agree that in that instance, it is probably justified. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

  30. Chuckles Says:

    Alex Heyworth, I think you are touching on an important truth there, and doing you best to stride firmly off into the distance.

    Many people still believe and behave as though the field is a dull scientific academic backwater, when it long ago moved out into that nasty thing called the real world.

    The results of this are

    a. Apparent around us.
    b. Often ill advised or not pretty.

  31. Scott Mandia Says:

    Alex,

    Steve McI is the poster child for implying motive despite his rules and his claims.

  32. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Scott, you are entitled to your opinion. So am I.

  33. John Whitman Says:

    ””’Scott Mandia Says: March 23, 2010 at 11:10 – Alex, Steve McI is the poster child for implying motive despite his rules and his claims.”””’

    Scott,

    In open debate, in the heat of the moment, injudicious things are said as egos and value systems clash, even by the most calm/rational of people. We are human.

    But minimizing or avoiding the clashes is why, I think, that we would recommend to Bart that some moderation process with posted rules would be good to mitigate those occasions.

    There is a logical fallacy in questioning motives so it should be avoided on a blog. But, on the other hand, when some historically troublesome blog commenter continuously disrupts a thread then it might be useful to the blog owner to analyze the causes/sources of the commenter’s behaviors in order to avoid future problems. I assume that any looking into motives would be at the discretion of a blog owner like Bart. Note: Steve McIntyre is a blog owner.

    John

  34. Alex Heyworth Says:

    PS Scott, I would agree that Steve’s approach has changed in recent times as his blog has moved away from technical analysis and more into the political issues. Personally, I preferred it when he stuck to the technical stuff.

  35. Scott A. Mandia Says:

    Alex,

    I appreciate your honesty.

  36. dhogaza Says:

    Well, here’s another definition for “debunk”:

    to expose or excoriate (a claim, assertion, sentiment, etc.) as being pretentious, false, or exaggerated

    There’s nothing wrong with using the word “debunk” as Bart’s used it, and I *am* a native english speaker.

    Ridicule isn’t a necessary precondition for use of the word …

  37. William T Says:

    I think you do need some basic rules about staying on topic and not engaging in gratuitous mud-slinging. If a thread starts to be filled with irrelevant rubbish then people who are actually interested in the topic will get tired of following. You just have to visit the comments sections of most newspaper sites to see the pointless kind of to-and-fro sniping that emerges from the totally open model.

  38. Alex Heyworth Says:

    dhogaza,

    I guess from your liking of the word “debunk” that you must be an American. Those of us who really have English as a native tongue, rather than American, will always consider debunk to have overtones of ridicule, putting down etc. A favorite pastime of Americans, particularly on blogs, would be my observation. But inappropriate in reference to an academic debate.

    As for how Bart used “debunk”, I had already observed that it might be appropriate in that context. To elaborate, that use was to refer to a polemical, rather than academic paper and to responses that have indeed exposed that paper to a considerable level of ridicule. I have no objection to the word per se, only to its persistent misuse in inappropriate ways.

    Chuckles,

    I THINK I understand what you are saying. Maybe you might need to elaborate if you want to make yourself clear. (Although maybe you don’t.)

  39. dhogaza Says:

    I guess from your liking of the word “debunk” that you must be an American. Those of us who really have English as a native tongue, rather than American, will always consider debunk to have overtones of ridicule, putting down etc

    It just so happens that “debunk” is an American word (look it up in the OED, if you must), as is “bunkum” and the derived “bunk”, so I think our definition and usage of our word should be considered definitive …

  40. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Aah, dhogaza,

    how interesting that you have referred to the OED, while the definitions I quoted came from American dictionaries …

  41. Chuckles Says:

    Alex, Easier said than done. :)

    You made a reference to an academic paper, and the treatment thereof, which reminded me of a thought train I’d had.
    I’ve vaguely noticed recently that several comments and responses I’ve read in various places have described something under discussion as ‘in a scientific context’, when to me they were describing an academic context.
    To the extent that the two were almost interchangeable.
    It seemed that ‘science is done in an academic context’ was taken almost as an axiom and this struck me as not necessarily a wise assumption.

  42. John Whitman Says:

    ”””’Chuckles Says: March 24, 2010 at 00:25 – . . . You made a reference to an academic paper, and the treatment thereof, which reminded me of a thought train I’d had. . . . . It seemed that ’science is done in an academic context’ was taken almost as an axiom and this struck me as not necessarily a wise assumption.””””’

    Chuckles,

    A valid point. Science outside of academia is not less valid, any opinions of academics to the contrary not withstanding.

    I consider that at this point given that virtually all academic climate research is gov’t funded, private research would be much less political and therefore has, in my opinion, less risk of being compromised by political agendas.

    I see blogs as the spearhead of private research, particularly in the climate science area.

    Bart, thanks again for your venue . . . . you are actually hosting sceintific research.

    John

    [Reply: Uhm, no. We’re having a beer. BV]

  43. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Chuckles, of course you are correct. Some of the “frontier science” is starting to move to the blogosphere, where it can proceed at a much faster pace. Of course, the tradeoff is probably that an even higher proportion of it is rubbish than has traditionally been the case where it is carried out via journal articles. Still, the cream will eventually rise to the top ….

    My concern was, I guess, that standards of etiquette that are considered normal in the blogosphere were being transferred to the academic context, rather than the preferable (in my opinion) reverse process. Being polite doesn’t hurt.

  44. dhogaza Says:

    how interesting that you have referred to the OED, while the definitions I quoted came from American dictionaries …

    Actually first I quoted from an American dictionary, contradicting your narrow definition, while when you pulled the “English know American words better than Americans do” crap, I cited OED to show that the most authoritative English dictionary disagrees.

    Take it up with the OED. Good luck!

  45. dhogaza Says:

    My concern was, I guess, that standards of etiquette that are considered normal in the blogosphere were being transferred to the academic context, rather than the preferable (in my opinion) reverse process. Being polite doesn’t hurt.

    Often, being polite is a dishonest attempt at delaying or de-emphasizing conflict having nothing to do with facts.

    I’m an American. I like being direct. My heritage is also 75% german, 25% dutch, and having done considerable business in each countries, being direct is typical.

    I have no emotional attachment to the English view of etiquette …

  46. Alex Heyworth Says:

    So, dhogaza, are you “debunking” me?

    The American claim to be direct is so often an excuse to be rude.

  47. Pofarmer Says:

    There’s plenty of other sites that are happy to be a collection of talking points; mine doesn’t need to be one of them

    You mean unless they’re yours.

  48. Länkar 2010-03-24 Says:

    […] The value of ‘open debate’ […]

  49. GDY Says:

    As a layperson attempting to come up the learning curve, I have actually found it constructive to see all comments – obviously, some are highly informative and others are not so. Indeed, through some repetition, I saw statements like “co2 lagged temperature in the past, so it can’t drive climate now” for the canards they are. Also, the exchange between people shows their thought process and knowledge of subject matter beyond their original assertion – sometimes burnishing credibility and sometimes destroying it. And as a reader, if you post everything, I always have the option to conclude someone’s thoughts are not relevant and can skip past it. Thanks for your efforts.

  50. Bart Says:

    I decided that it’s time for a comment policy to keep the discussion a bit more focussed.

    As of now, off topic comments are no longer allowed. Please take a look at the new comment policy for reference.

    I’ll see how it goes and adapt it accordingly.

    Thanks!

  51. Hank Roberts Says:

    Thanks to the pointer to Robert Grumbine’s comment a while back on Lindzen, which I’d missed. Definitely helpful for explaining to people how real scientists work. I’ve also recommended

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=886

    ( Selected as one of the 50 Best Science Blogging Posts of the Year )

  52. Dan Says:

    FWIW, Mosher and Fuller are the ones you should be listening to here.

    Don’t worry about newcomers posting stuff you’ve addressed before. Let their stuff stand or, if you must, judiciously snip or briefly respond. Only bring out the Ban Hammer on those who repeatedly, flagrantly violate your rules after having been warned.

    Since this moderation process will be a highly subjective one, you’ll have to be eternally vigilant against ego and bias on your part. Too many times (not going to name any names here), I’ve seen moderators slide into censorship.

    P.S. What’s with these guys generalizing about Americans? We’re an incredibly diverse lot. To speak of us in broad, sweeping terms would be like taliking about “Europeans” as a homogenous bunch.

  53. steven mosher Says:

    Dhog,

    I was very clear about what I meant by the analogy of the Piltdown Mann.
    I was very clear to say that the hockey stick is not a fraud or a hoax.
    I’ve said it now 30 or 40 times to you.

    I have a long piece pending on this, THANKS for reminding me that I have to finish it. Anyways, the main point was trying to explain how such an iconic image manages to persist. It has more to do with sociology ( like most of my stuff) than the science. As you know I believe in AGW. What I find fascinating are the parallels between a hoax and a bad piece of science.

    There differences ( intent of the author) of course make all the difference. But the mechanisms by which it is created and perpetuated are very interesting.

  54. steven mosher Says:

    Dhog,

    Not satisfied with this, “Piltdown Mann” Mosher has written an entire book devoted to displaying his bad behavior …”

    Anytime people have called me out on my bad behavior I have addressed it directly and apologized where I was wrong. Citation is your friend, use it.

    If you want to demonstrate bad behavior in the book, please do. But use the same standard of proof I did. I quoted the mails, usually in full, always in context. If you demonstrate it, I’ll gladly change the book. To date I have recieved one correction. I accused McIntyre of doing something suspect that he never did. hint: i trusted what the team said he did. I was wrong.

    Questions?

  55. Eli Rabett Says:

    Ok, so Eli will waste a good post. One of the problems with blogs, is that most people are clueless about the practice of science. What exposure they have had is in the context of a secondary school course, where at least in the US, the odds are that the teacher has not had a science education (things are better in Europe and Asia, Europe and Africa, who knows, and Australia is all upside down anyhow).

    This means that you get taught by Mom Rabett who repeats what is in a very rigid syllabus, you never do an experiment that fails and have to figure out why it fails, all data fits to incredible accuracy and precision, etc.

    This leads to the childish Popperian rants, about how anything disproves everything else, when, if fact, most things are professionally judged on a balance of the evidence and where people are allowed to have opinions if they can back them up with data. It also fuels a rush to misjudgement as the recent discussions of McLean, de Fretas and Carter, and Dublass and Christy have shown.

  56. Peter Wilson Says:

    Bart

    How can you be contemplating ending you open debate policy? Have you not noticed that you site has now hosted some of the most interesting, high quality debates on the internet about climate change. Surely you must recognise that this is entirely because people with different views can debate freely, with confidence they will be heard. Come on, do any of the other sites have people of the calibre of VS, Al Tekhasski and many others, as well as some leading figures from the Team like Mr Rabett, making technical arguments at length, without descending into abuse? Or at least not much…

    Genuine freedom of speech will always engender high quality debate, and in the long run high quality debate will lead us towards the truth. I fully support moderation to enforce civility and topicality, but at times even you become overly sensitive, particularly to any suggestion that any of the consensus scientists have been in any way unethical. These suggestions are not without very well documented foundation, and having to tiptoe around your hyper sensitivity in this area is my only complaint regarding your otherwise excellent moderation.

  57. Anonymous Says:

    ”””Eli Rabett Says: March 26, 2010 at 17:01 – Ok, so Eli will waste a good post. One of the problems with blogs, is that most people are clueless about the practice of science. What exposure they have had is in the context of a secondary school course, where at least in the US, the odds are that the teacher has not had a science education (things are better in Europe and Asia, Europe and Africa, who knows, and Australia is all upside down anyhow).”””

    Eli,

    You assume a lot for an educated person.

    Educated does not mean rational. Uneducated does not mean that a person is not rational. An uneducated person could be the most rational person.

    Tell everyone everything all the time. No excuses. No ‘good old boys’ groups in academia deciding thing in a non-open matter.

    John

  58. John Whitman Says:

    Oops, doing this on a pubic computer at Taipei airport. I am not anonymous.

    ******

    Anonymous Says:

    March 29, 2010 at 02:09
    ”””Eli Rabett Says: March 26, 2010 at 17:01 – Ok, so Eli will waste a good post. One of the problems with blogs, is that most people are clueless about the practice of science. What exposure they have had is in the context of a secondary school course, where at least in the US, the odds are that the teacher has not had a science education (things are better in Europe and Asia, Europe and Africa, who knows, and Australia is all upside down anyhow).”””

    Eli,

    You assume a lot for an educated person.

    Educated does not mean rational. Uneducated does not mean that a person is not rational. An uneducated person could be the most rational person.

    Tell everyone everything all the time. No excuses. No ‘good old boys’ groups in academia deciding thing in a non-open matter.

    John

  59. Kweenie Says:

    “It also fuels a rush to misjudgement as the recent discussions of McLean, de Fretas and Carter, and Dublass and Christy have shown.”

    Eli, could you ask Eli if this only applies to the “contrarians” or could there be even if the slightest of chances that AGW scientists might have misjudged the recent situation and could have rushed the unedicated clueless (ie poltician, amongst others) into useless strategic decisions?

  60. Eli Rabett Says:

    John, what Eli said was “clueless about the practice of science”, not educated or uneducated. You cannot parachute in from outer space and comment intelligently on something you know nothing about, but doing so is a common practice among the denialists of every flavor. What exposure that they have had is usually very superficial, which is just as bad. Raw intelligence has nothing to do with it. You are erecting a strawman.

    As to rushing to misjudgement, Eli offers two press releases, one about a recent paper by Samanta, et al. and another from the University of Waterloo. The probability of the basic WGI science being overturned is slightly lower than zero (allowing for a small amount of experimental error). As skeptical science points out (and Coby Beck before John Cook), each of the objections to the IPCC consensus view have been carefully considered and rejected.

  61. Luke Skywarmer Says:

    This is all true of dhogaza…… and a flamer to boot.

    In the thread cited I found dhogaza’s comments repetitive, off-topic and irritating to the point where I simply skipped over them all without reading them or anything which referred to them. I also felt your excessively repetitive “Replies” that AGW was not being refuted rather showed your discomfort with the analysis than contributed usefully. A moderator of an open debate must suffer somewhat stoically or make a detailed objective contribution. Editorial sniping is a turn-off.

    That’s my thoughts. Judge them as you will.

    [Reply: I was indeed busy replying to comments that I considered “repetitive, off-topic and irritating” (because they merely existed of regurgitating empty talking points). I am considering disallowing those because they add nothing to the discussion. There’s plenty of other sites that are happy to be a collection of talking points; mine doesn’t need to be one of them. BV]

    “repetitive, off-topic and irritating” snip them AND point to the answers
    sometimes we enter into it not knowing the answer is else where.

    any commonsense approach will end up snipping dhogaza and his like from both sides.

  62. Luke Skywarmer Says:

    Fraud can also be wholesale deletion of other sided question/remarks,
    I won’t mention the sights for the 1000’th time we all know who they are
    and there (lack of) readership proves it!

  63. Marco Says:

    Methinks Kweenie is projecting without any evidence.

  64. John Whitman Says:

    ”””’Eli Rabett Says: March 29, 2010 at 15:48 – John, what Eli said was “clueless about the practice of science”, not educated or uneducated. You cannot parachute in from outer space and comment intelligently on something you know nothing about, but doing so is a common practice among the denialists of every flavor. What exposure that they have had is usually very superficial, which is just as bad. Raw intelligence has nothing to do with it. You are erecting a strawman.

    As to rushing to misjudgement, Eli offers two press releases, one about a recent paper by Samanta, et al. and another from the University of Waterloo. The probability of the basic WGI science being overturned is slightly lower than zero (allowing for a small amount of experimental error). As skeptical science points out (and Coby Beck before John Cook), each of the objections to the IPCC consensus view have been carefully considered and rejected.””””

    Eli,

    Again, you are just repeating an assumption that a non-scientist, even if a objective/reasonal/rational person, cannot properly judge/understand what a ‘scientist’ says. You also assume it is up to you to decide that it is dangerous to give science info to that person.

    You just assume, again surprising from an educated person like you.

    Actually, it is quite reasonable to expect that such an outside observer is much more capable of asking the unobvious simple questions that highlight things that an insider scientist has just assumed or accepted from someone else.

    In the climate science debate of the past two years that I have observed, within the science community there have been misunderstandings (whether intentional or not) between scientists. That is OK?

    Yes, I say it is OK! Sceince is an argumentative, self correcting process. Eventually reality and/or other scientists finally show who the more correct scientist is.

    BUT you say a outside observer who is not a scientist (even if objective/reasonable/rational) doing the same thing is not OK?

    If you are thinking that YOU will be the one to prejudge which outside observers in non-scientific areas get to see the science then there you go again making assumptions about your own relevance and the capability of the ‘others’.

    You assume too much.

    Again, show everything to everybody all the time . . . . to the non academic world. I hypothesize, given the expansion of the scientific blogs, that to the extent that a climate scientist does not do it then he will be left behind or worse, ignored.

    And ELI – ahhhh, especially since virtually all of the climate science is paid for by the public, we have a legal right to know everything all the time. : )

    John

  65. Chuckles Says:

    Kweenie,

    I’d recommend going back to that James Lovelock interview and clicking through to read the full transcript of the interview.

    He has an ‘interesting’ outlook on some aspects of some climate studies.

  66. Kweenie Says:

    I’m sorry Marco, did you feel neglected?

    Chuckles: yep read the full transcript, including words like : “We’re very tribal. You’re either a goodie or a baddie. I’ve got quite a few friends among the sceptics, as well as among the “angels” of climate science. I’ve got more angels as friends than sceptics”…

    and

    “*if* the Pine Island glacier breaks of Antarctic and slip into the ocean sea level will rise immediately with 2 meters, something huge like tsunamis will happen.” The usual scare mongering.
    It’s like saying *if* a huge meteor will fall down into Kansas, wheat prices will rise immediately.

  67. Eli Rabett Says:

    John, stop with building the thatched cottage. Eli simply said

    a) most people don’t know how scientists work
    b) assuming you do, if you don’t, no matter how brilliant you are, just leads you astray

    to which he would add

    c) access to “all the data all the time” costs extra and requires many more people to set up and operate the data system. You pay for the military. Try walking onto a base and telling the general to drop everything and tell you what you want to know. In the same way Jones, Mann, et al., are paid to work on specific problems not hold Steve McIntyre’s hand. That costs extra.

  68. Anonymous Says:

    ”””’Eli Rabett Says: April 2, 2010 at 04:59 – John, stop with building the thatched cottage. Eli simply said
    a) most people don’t know how scientists work
    b) assuming you do, if you don’t, no matter how brilliant you are, just leads you astray
    to which he would add
    c) access to “all the data all the time” costs extra and requires many more people to set up and operate the data system. You pay for the military. Try walking onto a base and telling the general to drop everything and tell you what you want to know. In the same way Jones, Mann, et al., are paid to work on specific problems not hold Steve McIntyre’s hand. That costs extra.”””””

    ==========
    Eli,

    More assumptions, again surprisingly from an educated person:

    a) You are assuming thatched cottages?

    b) Just assuming that anyone who is not a scientist don’t(can’t) know how scientists work?

    c) Military? Are you assuming public funded climate science programs are like the military programs that are publically?

    d) Expense of openess? What significant expense? You assume huge costs of just transfering exisiting files to a website that already exists. You assume making a CD ROM or DVD weekly with a handful of key strokes is significant cost?

    e) The cost of Mann, Jones doing their work includes following FOI laws? You are assuming that a reasonable person making a simple budget wouldn’t allow for ongoing public information costs. Surprising it was not budgeted, given that it is a requirement to keep the public informed as they request.

    You assume too much. Again.

    The cost to Mann/CRU of complying immediately with the very first FOI request is insignificant compared to the cost that has occurred to Jones/CRU to date by not simply immediately complying. The final cost of not complying will be huge when all of the fallout of not complying is calculated.

    John

  69. Anonymous Says:

    Eli,

    OOPS! I am not anonymous. I keep using different computers and forget to enter my name and email address before commenting on the new computer.

    Sorry.

    Here is my comment again.

    John Whitman
    =========
    ”””’Eli Rabett Says: April 2, 2010 at 04:59 – John, stop with building the thatched cottage. Eli simply said
    a) most people don’t know how scientists work
    b) assuming you do, if you don’t, no matter how brilliant you are, just leads you astray
    to which he would add
    c) access to “all the data all the time” costs extra and requires many more people to set up and operate the data system. You pay for the military. Try walking onto a base and telling the general to drop everything and tell you what you want to know. In the same way Jones, Mann, et al., are paid to work on specific problems not hold Steve McIntyre’s hand. That costs extra.”””””

    ==========
    Eli,

    More assumptions, again surprisingly from an educated person:

    a) You are assuming thatched cottages?

    b) Just assuming that anyone who is not a scientist don’t(can’t) know how scientists work?

    c) Military? Are you assuming public funded climate science programs are like the military programs that are publically?

    d) Expense of openess? What significant expense? You assume huge costs of just transfering exisiting files to a website that already exists. You assume making a CD ROM or DVD weekly with a handful of key strokes is significant cost?

    e) The cost of Mann, Jones doing their work includes following FOI laws? You are assuming that a reasonable person making a simple budget wouldn’t allow for ongoing public information costs. Surprising it was not budgeted, given that it is a requirement to keep the public informed as they request.

    You assume too much. Again.

    The cost to Mann/CRU of complying immediately with the very first FOI request is insignificant compared to the cost that has occurred to Jones/CRU to date by not simply immediately complying. The final cost of not complying will be huge when all of the fallout of not complying is calculated.

    John

  70. John Whitman Says:

    Finally,

    got throught the anonymous error on my part.

    John
    =========

    Anonymous Says:

    April 3, 2010 at 03:07
    Eli,

    OOPS! I am not anonymous. I keep using different computers and forget to enter my name and email address before commenting on the new computer.

    Sorry.

    Here is my comment again.

    John Whitman

  71. Bart Says:

    phinnie,

    If you say something substantive without whining about ‘the clerus’ and other silly stuff, I’d be happy to let it through. Just trying to keep a minimum quality of the discourse, that’s all.
    Thanks for understanding.

  72. andreyza Says:

    I think your post is very useful and I always waited for updates from your

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