Lindzen Diatribe

It looks like Lubos Motl gets credit for the first notice in the blogosphere of Lindzen’s astonishing new rant about the state of climate science.

As is often the case with people who are too sure of themselves, he turns out guilty of some of the things he accuses his opponents of. He politicizes and conspiratorializes rather than simply addressing the problem dispassionately. His personal characterization of other scientists is grossly excessive in at least one occasion. I am inclined to extrapolate that his understanding of specific events is similarly skewed.

It’s important to acknowledge that there is a legitimate point underneath all this bile. While scientists may be obligated to be advocates in extreme situations, science itself must remain distinct from advocacy if it is to be of any use at all. This is absolutely crucial in matters of public import.

There are definitely signs that the capacity of science to absorb new information is in decline. This may indeed bias the perception in client sciences (which use the output of climate science) of the extent and timing of anticipated climate disruption.

It’s essential, for example, that the IPCC not overstate the certainty of its conclusions and that the community remain open to reasonably well-formed criticism. Any evidence that anything else has been happening in the past should be met with something other than emotive defensiveness. This may be hard given the confrontational tone adopted by some of the critics, including Lindzen here.

Science must make judgments, and some of those it finds wanting will always be offended. I am reasonably convinced that Lindzen’s “iris effect” is refuted; Lindzen apparently is not. It is hard to know when to close such a debate, especially with a person who has made real contributions in the past.

I’m not softening on Lindzen. Indeed think this particular contribution is rather toxic. Still, it’s obvious that (to the extent that he wrote this) he isn’t so far gone as to be considered stupid.

I actually think the community has been extremely tolerant of Lindzen, going quite some way to allow his theories into print. It’s the unestablished outsider that has a real complaint, as far as I can see.

Any evidence that the publication selection method is based on something other than science is a cause for concern; alas, there is evidence for such. It’s not about “politics” in the usual sense though. It’s basically that many scientists can’t write, many scientists have no time to read, and the entire publication mechanism that is the metric of performance is consequently flawed. The bias is toward papers emerging from established research groups. If this becomes excessive science becomes “academic” in the worst sense.

Which brings us back to Lindzen’s diatribe. I am hoping the bizarre snipe at Ray P was ghostwritten. It’s inexcusable. I am confident that Ray has never publicly addressed scientific matters other than scientifically, and is in no reasonable sense fanatical. At best, Lindzen “approved the message”. As such he is very clearly participating in the degradation of scientific conversation he claims to be bemoaning. As far as I am concerned, this one gross misstatement colors the credibility of the entire article. Perhaps others will find other similarly grotesque mischaracterizations elsewhere.

Crude swipes at the few people with the talent to both read and write effectively at the highest levels hardly seem designed to improve matters.

Likely this paper will be a Palinesque effort, energizing the “base” who have preconceived notions along these lines, and having little effect elsewhere.

It’s a shame. We do need to rethink how science is done. This sort of injured and injurious argumentation will do little to advance that prospect.

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Ouch!

Dr. Lubos links to an amazingly painful Larry King snippet and scores some easy points. Brace yourself.

In short, Bill Nye the science guy sputters a bit and then makes the usual blunder about the “Gulf Stream shutting down”, and Lindzen makes plenty of hay from it.

If this is the story people are seeing, is it any wonder they are getting it jumbled up?

Larry King’s people deserve some of the blame for this disaster, but Bill Nye should have just demurred. We don’t need some bowtied Mr Rogers clone defending us, for God’s sake. It may not be “a hundred thousand to one” as Nye idiotically suggests but it’s pretty much “ten thousand to ten”. Where were the ten thousand? Couldn’t King’s people have found even one competent member of the IPCC?

It’s bad enough to have to debate on these terms, but it seems we have to. If we don’t, they will put up the likes of Bill Nye to argue our case!