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What To Reply When Your Ex Back You Want Him Also

by Steven Novella, Jun 13 2011

The 1936 Literary Digest poll was a telephone surv What To Reply When Your Ex Back You Want Him Also ey attempting to predict the outcome of the 1936 presidential race between Roosevelt and Alf Landon. The poll is infamous for predicting a huge victory for Landon, when in fact Roosevelt won by a landslide. Conventional wisdom is that the phone survey (a relatively new technology) was biased toward the affluent, who disproportionately supported Landon – therefore it was a problem with the representativeness of the sample. However, later analysis shows that the low response rate was also a contributing factor.

This episode is now the textbook example of the broader concept that data may contain spurious patterns or results, depending on the methods used to gather that data. Humans are great at detecting patterns, and researchers will often mine large pools of data looking for connections. We also do this automatically in our everyday lives – mining the massive amounts of data of our daily experiences for patterns and then often responding as if these patterns are real and meaningful.

There are many kinds of false patterns in data other than sampling bias, and it often takes an expert to know how to interpret a complex data set. Meanwhile complex data can be presented to the public in a partial or deception way in order to create a false impression. The global warming controversy is now the poster child for this phenomenon. The notion that the planet is slowly warming and that human activity is playing a significant role is based upon large sets of data that has to be analyzed in very complex and subtle statistical ways. Both sides of the controversy point to biases or errors in the data that falsely make it look as if the Earth is or is not warming.

I am not suggesting equivalency here – just that the fight is largely taking place in the arena of horrifically complex sets of massive amounts of data. For the record, I find the argument for anthropogenic global warming to be compelling. I would not say that it is certain, but it is probable enough that it is reasonable to think about how we can mitigate such effects from continuing unrestrained into the future. This is one of those areas of research where scientific certainty will likely not be achieved until long after it is too late to do anything about it, so we have to act based upon probability.

One of the many challenges of looking at the data of planetary temperatures is that we need to look at trends over a long period of time. By definition, this takes a long time. (It is similar to asking what the long term effects are of some medical intervention – if you want to know what the risks vs benefits are over 20 years, that will take at least 20 years to research.) What this means practically is that recent trends are difficult to analyze statistically. By definition recent trends are short term.

This has led to the fact that, looking at warming trends since 1995, there has been no statistically significant warming. Global warming dissidents have used this fact to argue that global warming is not happening – whatever warming was happening in the latter half of the 20th century is now over, and this is all part of the natural cycle of temperature fluctuation.

But as I stated – it is always going to be true that when we look at the trend in the last 10 years we have only 10 years of data, and that may not be enough to be statistically significant. So dissidents will always be able to argue that there has been no warming in the most recent decade.

Professor Phil Jones (yes, the same Jones who was caught up in the “ClimateGate” scandal – which, btw, never turned up any evidence of scientific misconduct), was often quoted as saying that the data from 1995-2009 did not show significant warming. It did show warming, which was statistically significant at the 90% confidence level – but not the 95% that is the accepted cutoff. Well, after adding in the data for 2010, the warming trend for this period is now, according to Jones, significant at the 95% level. He is quoted by the BBC:

“Basically what’s changed is one more year [of data]. That period 1995-2009 was just 15 years – and because of the uncertainty in estimating trends over short periods, an extra year has made that trend significant at the 95% level which is the traditional threshold that statisticians have used for many years.

Jones argues that 20-30 years is the time period we really should be looking at. But of course, as I stated, this means we will always be 20-30 years behind the times in our knowledge of recent climate change.


There are many sources of potential artifact in the climate data. Where are the temperature stations located? Have cities built up near them over the years, leading to false warming? There are also artifacts in the time it takes for stations to report their data to central repositories, which then have to crunch the data. There are changing methods of temperature measurement of the years.

In addition to artifact in the gathering and reporting of the data, there are numerous trends in the data itself. There are multiple natural climate cycles, as well as short term anomalies (like volcanic eruptions) that need to be taken into account.

This is why sorting through all of this noise in the climate data is not for the amateur. Of course, now that climate change is a politically-charged issue, the internet if full of exactly that – amateur analysis of the data. This is definitely an area where substituting one’s own analysis for the consensus of scientific opinion is probably not a good idea.

109 Responses to “What To Reply When Your Ex Back You Want Him Also”

  1. MarkP says:

    which, btw, never turned up any evidence of scientific misconduct

    Tell that to Richard Muller. Or anyone else who takes the raw data seriously. The “trick” wasn’t a concern. The “hide the decline” was.

    • tmac57 says:

      But now Muller has conceded that the data sets that he questioned were not bad after all:

      Said Muller:
      “The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was created to make the best possible estimate of global temperature change using as complete a record of measurements as possible and by applying novel methods for the estimation and elimination of systematic biases.

      We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.

      The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends.

      Despite potential biases in the data, methods of analysis can be used to reduce bias effects well enough to enable us to measure long-term Earth temperature changes. Data integrity is adequate. Based on our initial work at Berkeley Earth, I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.”

      • MarkP says:

        Oh, it’s clear that Muller still believes the data show AGW. That doesn’t change the fact that there was scientific malfeasance. In fact, part of his point in the video (which I have to conclude you didn’t watch) was that they didn’t need to lie to show their conclusions.

        See, the difference between Muller and the Climategate guys isn’t necessarily their conclusions, it’s their ethics. Muller believes in honest science and (AFAIK) in AGW. He just believes in being honest about the data. Something the Climategate jokers don’t. And Novella is being willfully obtuse to ignore the actual fraud of Jones, et. al. because Jones was “cleared” by his employer.

      • You got actual fraud, let’s see some URLs, and not from ExxonMobil websites, since you practically quoted them word for word earlier with “CO2 = GOOD!”

      • MarkP says:

        Watch the youtube clip I linked. It’s just of Muller speaking. It doesn’t bite.

      • Somite says:

        The exclusion of that portion of one of the datasets (from Briffa) was scientifically sound because it did not match any of the other global tree ring data sets an dothet other sources of temp measurement. Briffa himself published a paper explaining why those particular measurements likely reflect a local temp rather than global.

        Since you recommended a video here is my recommendation

    • Max says:

      Richard Muller is an interesting character. This video talks about his investigation and about “hide the decline.”

      • tmac57 says:

        You beat me to it Max,thanks.I think that clearly addresses the issue.

        MarkP- You concluded incorrectly.I did indeed watch the video,but since it predated (Oct. 2010)Muller’s appearance before the House Committee,I assumed that he had since changed his mind.

        Oh,and be sure to watch the ENTIRE video that Max linked to,you wouldn’t want to appear to be a hypocrite.

  2. oldebabe says:

    No matter what, one thing is certain: the climate of this planet has and will change over geologic time… ;-)

  3. “For the record, I find the argument for anthropogenic global warming to be compelling. I would not say that it is certain, but it is probable enough that it is reasonable to think about how we can mitigate such effects from continuing unrestrained into the future.”

    What evidence would you need to be certain? As far as I can tell there are at least 10-12 independent studies showing that the Earth is warming faster than it ever has, and the influence of greenhouse gas emissions is found in virtually all of these studies.

    • Max says:

      The IPCC report said, “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperature since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations,” where “very likely” translates to a 90% probability, which is a lot more certain than the “likely” 66% probability they reported in 2001, but less certain than, say, 99%.

  4. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    There are really only four possibilities for the AGW situation:
    1)It’s real and we do little or nothing. Outcome: we’re screwed.
    2)It’s real and we act decisively and in a timely manner. Outcome: We may still be screwed, but less than if we did nothing.
    3)It’s not real and we do nothing. Outcome: no loss, no gain.
    4)It’s not real and we act believing it is. Outcome: cleaner air, cleaner water, fewer new power plants, less fracking and mountaintop removal mining, more energy-efficient technology and habits, less personal, business and tax money spent on energy.
    Seems to me that with two scenarios where we gain, one where we lose badly and only one neutral outcome that it’s just common sense to act and act now.

    • Max says:

      #4 could mean more nuclear power plants, which produce less CO2 but have occasional meltdowns.

    • Tom says:

      A couple of points. 2 and 4 involve real costs now, which may or may not be justified. Nevertheless, they are ignored in your decision tree.

      Another point is that you assume we are screwed if the planet warms a bit more than it otherwise would. How lucky we are that we are that we currently exist in the pristine optimum temperature regime, with looming disaster a degree or two in either direction.

      • Tom – You are looking at this the wrong way. The temperature does not just happen to be perfect for us. Rather, we built our civilization around the current climate – we put our cities on current coastlines, we have our farming infrastructure where production is optimum, etc.

        A changed climate won’t be any better or worse for the Earth – but it could be very inconvenient to us.

      • Nyar says:

        Then wouldn’t a better strategy be mitigation of the consequences of change after they occur, rather than acting with uncertainty before hand and possibly wasting resources on unnecessary and/or counter productive actions?

      • Max says:

        Why would the mitigation strategy be any more certain to work?
        It’s kind of like focusing on cancer treatment instead of a healthy lifestyle to prevent cancer.

      • Nyar says:

        Just because with mitigation we will know specifically what the problems are and how severe they are and thus be able to to make good decisions about to react to them.

        In your example, cancer cannot be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle. In many cases cancer is caused by environmental factors, like exposure to cosmic rays or even just random mutation, that you have no control over. The only effective response is to treat the cancer after it has been detected.

      • Max says:

        Environmental factors are usually the ones that we can control, like smoking, pollution, diet, tanning, etc.
        Since we’re 90% certain that most of global warming is caused by humans, a good analogy would be quitting smoking to prevent lung cancer. Quitting smoking is not easy, and even without quitting there’s “only” a 15% risk of developing lung cancer, but boy is it nasty if you get it, as is the treatment. So, would you rather quit and reduce the risk from 15% to 1.5%, or wait for your prognosis to see how many months you have left?

      • Nyar says:

        I think a better analogy would be if you had a job that increased your chances of getting some cancer by %1.5. Should you quit your job now and risk being unemployed and losing your benefits including health insurance, or do go ahead and do your job, and just treat the cancer IF you get it later. What if you quit your job to minimize your risk of a specific cancer and then you get a different cancer and have no health insurance because you quit your job?

      • This is a “bootstrappping” issue, IMO … it’s easier to mitigate if preventative measures have already been taken.

      • Nyar’s last analogy is a false dichotomy .. I could also sue my boss over an unhealthy workplace, call OSHA, etc.

      • Nyar says:

        That is true, my last analogy was a false dilemma, but so Max’s, so I was just responding in kind. But I do believe that using faulty analogies is a poor way to debate, so point taken.

      • tmac57 says:

        Another point,is that I believe the blog post also specifically endorses mitigation efforts that would be neither unnecessary nor counter productive(win win).Adopting smart grid technology,and developing wind,solar geothermal,etc.,will not only reduce CO2,but will lessen our demand for oil from hostile sources,and create job opportunities in manufacturing,engineering and construction.
        A factor that may also be overlooked,is that since doing many of the above actions will also require using fossil fuels now to accomplish them,we should take advantage of the relatively cheap price of it to do so,since waiting till the last minute will mean that we will also pay a premium for it,but we will have no choice but to do so,since there is a finite supply of those resources.

      • Max says:


        If the hypothetical job increases the absolute risk of some cancer by 1.5%, I might still take it, but if it increases the risk by some unknown percentage between 1.5% and 15%, I wouldn’t and didn’t take it.

      • Old Rockin' Dave says:

        Waiting for the consequences is not a very good idea. When small Pacific islands go under from increased sea levels, we might absorb the few thousands of people who live on them. If Bangladesh goes under, it would be a disaster of epic proportion with effects that would go on for decades. New Orleans and much of the rest of the Mississippi delta hang by a thread as it is. Higher sea levels means higher tides, storm surges that go farther inland, more infiltration of salt water into the mouths of rivers. And that’s just part of what higher sea levels would do. How about Africanized bees, anopheles mosquitos and fire ants expanding their range in the US?
        I could go on but won’t. The longer you think about potential consequences, the more you will want something to be done.
        I could go on,

      • Tom says:

        That’s a fair point – thanks.

        I do think that there needs to be a better attempt at a rigorous cost/benefit analysis – rather than saying something like “We should do whatever it takes because it might be really really bad”. (not saying you are advocating that, but Rockin’ Dave seems to be)

      • I am definitely in the camp of advocating measures that have evidence and a careful risk/benefit analysis.

        I mainly favor doing things that are clearly in the win-win column -things that will benefit us even if AGW turns out not to be a big deal.

        Energy independence, renewable energy, less pollution, greater efficiency – these are all good, and may just prevent unwanted changes to the climate to boot.

      • tmac57 says:

        A reasonable view,but I would hasten to add,that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.Paralysis by analysis can lead to (and is leading to) inaction,which will spell disaster if the consensus is correct.
        Luckily,with regard to wind power,there does seem to be quite a lot of development driven by the economics alone.I pay about the same for 100% wind power here in Texas as I would for conventional power.It’s somewhat higher,but not that much,and I put my money where my mouth is.

      • Tmac, besides buying wind power or other renewables, getting an electric plan with a progressively upward sliding rate scale is another way of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is. (I have one.)

        Ditto, I wish more cities had progressive water rates; it would certainly prompt consumption there. Including in Bush-ville, West Texas, where I am now, Tmac.

  5. Dave – to be fair, for number 4, it highly depends upon what we do. You are giving the best case scenario, where what we do is research better energy efficiency, clean alternatives, etc. These are generally considered the win-win actions to take, and it seems insane not to support them. As you say, even if AGW turns out to be wrong, we still get clean energy in the bargain, and reduce our oil dependence.

    But – there are actions we could take under #4 that are not beneficial and hurt economies. So the #4 worst case scenario is that governments enact a bunch of draconian measures that end up being counterproductive both to the environment and to economies (i.e quality of life).

    I would not assume that governments would not take counterproductive measures (corn-based biofuels come to mind).

    But – I agree – we should do the win-win measures that are good regardless of the truth of AGW.

    • BillG says:

      Are the “win-win measures” based on solid science? Even if human caused global warming has escalated without question, will any (human) counter measure(s) give us certainty as a deterrent?

      You can’t insure for every potential peril as each risk or benefit gets shifted or neglected. We need solid data that we can actually make a difference or perhaps contribute only to unneeded suffering and jeopardize an already fragile world economy.

  6. MarkP says:

    Ah, perpetually stuck in moderation. What about #4 would result in “cleaner air, water”? CO2 isn’t dirty, it’s plant food. Reducing our CO2 emissions won’t clean the air one bit.

    • Max says:

      Burning fossil fuels produces both CO2 and smog, and “clean energy” produces less of both.

    • How much did ExxonMobil pay you to say that here?

    • Old Rockin' Dave says:

      “CO2 isn’t dirty, it’s plant food.” Does the phrase “too much of a good thing” mean anything to you? Lots of things are “plant food” but too much of any nutrient will destroy your garden in short order. There is some evidence that common food crops grow faster with increased CO2, but the experiments have been small-scale, and I would hate to see that tested on a global scale without MUCH better evidence than we have now. If it doesn’t work, it will be awfully hard to just terminate the experiment. We have done many things in the name of bigger, better harvests and some of them have not worked out quite as well as we intended. Algal blooms from nitrogen in run-off is just one example. And how would increased plant growth help with global warming? More shade?

  7. Jim Howard says:

    I’ll believe this is crisis when the crisis-mongers start acting like its a crisis.

    That means accelerated building of nuclear plants,no more conferences in Bali or Cancun, and Al Gore gives up his G5 and one or two of his mansions, to start with.

    • Max says:

      Now that’s a classic tu quoque fallacy, as in, “I’ll believe the doctor that smoking is unhealthy when he quits smoking.”

  8. Trimegistus says:

    You are all sinful because you emit carbon which is an abomination unto Gaia. You can do penance for your sin by driving a small uncomfortable car, being cold, and purchasing indulgences from Al Gore. Amen.

    While everyone was worrying about religion stifling science and keeping an eye on those awful right-wing fundamentalists, it crept in from the other direction and took over.

  9. gdave says:

    Jim Howard, Trimegistus, and others:

    First, lets all agree that Al Gore is a corrupt, hypocritical, @$$#ole, and no one should ever pay any attention to anything he says. OK? I’ll even go you one better, and stipulate that “An Inconvenient Truth” was a piece of political propaganda that included errors, distortions, and omissions. OK?

    The fact remains that there is a large body of scientific evidence, and an overwhelming consensus among the relevant scientists, that anthropogenic global warming is real, and that it will have significant negative impacts on human society.

    The question about what to do about that, of course, is pretty complex. Bio-fuels, particularly corn-based ethanol, for example, were touted as a partial solution. But taking into account the complete production chain of cultivation, refining, and transportation, corn-based ethanol turns out to probably have about the same carbon footprint as gasoline, plus being more expensive, and diverting food crops and crop-land.

    Solar power might be a partial solution. But it’s not quite as “clean” as it’s sometimes portrayed to be, when taking into account the carbon and pollution resulting from the full production chain of mining, refining, and transporting the raw materials, and manufacturing the panels. It may also shift us away from oil dependence on foreign countries (mainly Canada and Venezuela, not the Middle East, BTW), but towards dependence on Chinese rare earths.

    And so on. As I said, it’s a complex problem. Which means it’s one we should be discussing in some detail, rather than being side-tracked with discussions of Al Gore.

    • Trimegistus is right on one other thing … carbon offsets ARE a modern enviro equivalent of medieval indulgences, which is exactly what’s wrong with them. But, those of us who don’t, contra his straw man, worship Al Gore have long known that.

      • tmac57 says:

        Yes,I have never understood the argument that “AGW is wrong/fraud/whatever,because the solutions are wrong/draconian/Al Gorable”
        The solutions proposed have zero to do with whether or not AGW is real or not.

  10. Somite says:

    Options for mitigation and adaptation are part of the IPCC goals and are contained in their report. They basically state what level of emissions should be achieved to prevent the worst scenarios, It’s all there produced by the researchers with the most expertise in the subject.

    Ah but I forget. The IPCC is not accepted but is instead replaced by the arguments “we need to know more”. Sounds like “teach the controversy” to me.

    I’ll state it clearly. To be a skeptic you must accept the current scientific consensus. If you have disagreements with the consensus you must show data or flaws in the reasoning for your disagreement and prove the concensus wrong. If you are not in a position to do this and disagree with the consensus you are simply a denier.

    • Nyar says:

      You certainly stated it clearly, and wrongly. A skeptic is defined as someone who is inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions or conclusions. A skeptic is not required to accept a consensus on the appeal to authority.

      • Somite says:

        The appeal to authority fallacy does not apply to the scientific concensus! The “authority” that fallacy refers is meant to be the incorrect or inappropriate authority.

      • Nyar says:

        Actually, when the authority is appropriate, as in the case of the scientific consensus on global warming, is when the fallacy is most likely to occur, since many skeptics may feel uncomfortable questioning it.

      • Well, there’s a damned good example of circular reasoning.

        Let’s try some analogies:

        Four doctors have all said I have cancer, therefore they MUST BE WRONG!

        Five mechanics have all said my car needs a new transmission, so they MUST BE WRONG!

        Well, with “skepticism” like that, errr, pseudoskepticism like that, it’s clear that Nyar’s ostrich head is buried in some ever-warming sands and not worth further reply.

      • Nyar says:

        I didn’t say they MUST BE WRONG. You only weaken your own arguments when you resort to dishonesty.

      • Uhh, I’m not the one who resorted to dishonesty; running the “appeal to authority” through a tea party type rinse cycle did. I simply carried your analogy to a logical conclusion in other fields.

      • Uhh, I’m not the one who resorted to dishonesty; running the “appeal to authority” through a tea party type rinse cycle did. I simply carried your analogy to a logical conclusion in other fields.

        Well, to be technical, I should have said, THEY’RE MORE LIKELY TO BE WRONG.

        Additionally, per your line of reasoning, people could be more deceived if they get second medical opinions. Etc., etc.

      • Nyar says:

        You were either being dishonest or you don’t understand what a fallacy is. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, but clearly that was a mistake.

        The appeal to authority does not mean that something is more likely to be incorrect if it comes from an authority, and I didn’t say that it did. It just means that it is a fallacy to say that something must be correct because it comes from an authority.

        What I said before was that this fallacy is more likely to occur when scientists are the authorities because skeptics and just people in general will be less likely to question the experts. It does not imply that the scientists must be wrong, or even that they are likely to be wrong.

        I don’t know what you mean by tea party rinse cycle. I assume it a left-wingers idea of an insult or something. Fine, I’ll throw you bone on this one.

        I am very offended by your insult!

        Good enough?

      • Somite says:

        @Nyar But you got it wrong from the beginning. As more expertise and is added to the claim it is less likely there will be a fallacy. Understand the appeal to authority can only happen when the data and/or expertise do not match the claim. By your logic all knowledge would be an argument from authority.

      • Nyar says:


        No, I disagree, the fallacy happens when a claim is considered correct because of the authority of the person making the claim. The claim must be evaluated on its own merits. You can consider the source of the claim, that is good thing to do, but ultimately it is consistency with the data that matters. You brought up the data in your last comment, so I know that you understand that.

      • Boo hoo. Nyar is offended.

        I’ll double your offendedness with being disgusted by your inanity on this issue.

      • Nyar says:

        Damn Gadfly, I have to give you some credit here, no matter how hard I try to, I simply cannot underestimate you.

      • Nyar, to riff on Spinal Tap, my estimation meter goes to negative-11, so I’ve tried to prepare for you.

      • Max says:

        Nyar is using the most formal definition of the fallacy, which is, “An authority said X is true, therefore X is true.” The fallacy is the assumption that the authority can’t possibly be wrong. Assuming that the scientific consensus is infallible would be a fallacy too, but nobody really thinks it’s infallible, though it may be the least fallible.

      • tmac57 says:

        I don’t think so.
        See Nyar’s statement:
        “Actually, when the authority is appropriate, as in the case of the scientific consensus on global warming, is when the fallacy is most likely to occur, since many skeptics may feel uncomfortable questioning it.”
        Nyar is acknowledging that the climate scientists are appropriate authorities on the question of AGW.It isn’t lack of absolute certainty that defines the fallacy,but whether or not they are an appropriate expert.
        Nyar seems to think that reluctance to question an appropriate expert consensus leads to the fallacy,when it is actually using good sense to be reluctant, when you know much less than a the consensus group does.

      • Max says:

        The basic fallacy is just the assumption that an authority is 100% infallible, regardless whether the authority is appropriate or inappropriate.
        Nyar said that people are more likely to think that an appropriate authority is infallible, which would be a fallacy. However, many skeptics feel uncomfortable questioning the scientific consensus not because they think it’s infallible, but because they think it’s less fallible than they are.

      • tmac57 says:

        Suppose that you are blind,and need to rely on someone sighted to tell you when to cross the street safely,but you are somewhat uncertain.Now, you have 100 sighted bystanders who each give their opinion.Of them,97 say they see a car approaching,and not to cross.However,3 of them say “they don’t know what they’re talking,there is no car,so go for it!” I guess the ‘skeptic’ defies conventional wisdom and goes with their gut,right?

      • Nyar says:

        There is nothing in the definition of skeptic that would require going with one’s gut.

      • Somite says:

        If you say the scientific consensus is an argument from authority all you have left is gut.

      • Nyar says:

        Saying that a skeptic must either accept the consensus or go with their gut, is an example of a false dilemma.

      • tmac57 says:

        If you do not have the requisite expertise (are blind),you must rely on others for guidance (the sighted).To ignore such a lopsided distribution between those scientists who accept AGW vs those who do not (97% vs 3%), must at some level, require some extraordinary evidence,or maybe just a ‘gut feeling’ that you are being misled,based off of your personal confirmation biases perhaps.

      • Nyar says:

        Arguing that the majority must be right is another fallacy, the appeal to popularity.

      • Folks, see my snarky comment above … it’s clear Nyar is a pseudoskeptic like CountryGirl and Mark P; don’t bother arguing with him.

        Rather, very time there’s a new post here and someone like that comments, we just advise everybody of that right away, for any newcomers.

      • Nyar says:

        I is very polite of you Gadfly, but I think everyone can decide for themselves who they want or don’t want to argue with.

      • tmac57 says:

        Nyar said: “Arguing that the majority must be right is another fallacy, the appeal to popularity.”
        You are mistaken.The Appeal to Popularity or Bandwagon Fallacy are fallacies only when the appeal is IRRELEVANT,I.E. “Skippy is the BEST peanut butter,because it’s sales are #1!”.That is distinctly different than the consensus of scientists with relevant and highly specialized education doing research to establish their hypothesis.

      • Nyar says:

        It is the quality of the research that is relevant, not how many other scientists agree with them.

      • tmac57 says:

        Nyar-Since you seem interested in different types of fallacies,you should look in to the ‘Moving the Goalposts’ fallacy.

      • Nyar says:

        I am already aware of it, but thank you for the suggestion.

      • Somite says:

        Is there a name for misuse of logical fallacies?

      • Nyar says:

        I don’t know. I would suggest the Appeal to Fallacy Fallacy.

      • Well, you suggested the name, Nyar; you’re a good practitioner.

        That said, folks, it’s clear that Nyar’s next move will be to conflate his misinterpretation of the appeal to authority and the appeal to popularity to claim that we’re even m ore wrong than we were before.

        At least it’s entertaining to see Nyar prove Chris Mooney correct.

      • Nyar says:


        So now you are a fortune teller?

      • Max says:

        There are different definitions of skeptic. The simple definition is that it’s just someone who doubts something, in which case Creationists are skeptical of Evolution, anti-vaxxers are skeptical of vaccines, etc. Here, we’re talking about scientific skepticism, which is using the best evidence and reasoning to reach conclusions. What’s better than the scientific consensus?

      • Nyar says:

        Finally, the bulb comes on. Somite did not modify skeptic with an adjective, ey simply said that a skeptic must accept X ( X in this case being the scientific consensus on AGW) or they not a skeptic. That is clearly a false statement. As you have pointed out here, a skeptic can be skeptical of evolution, or of vaccines, or of whatever. My argument was never that the conclusions of the consensus were wrong, only that a skeptic does not have to accept them in order to be a skeptic.

        What is better than the consensus? The research that it is based on is better.

      • tmac57 says:

        In an ideal world,we all would have the scientific expertise through education,to understand all complex questions.Sadly,and for practical reasons this is impossible.So what is the next best thing? For me,I try to get at least a basic understanding of the facts,and then listen to the competing sides,look at their relevant training,see if they make contradicting claims,and follow the logic.But,in the end most of us will have to depend on the opinions of others who know much,much more than we ever will about an issue,and the more the experts agree,the more likely (though maybe not 100% certain) they are to be correct,especially when employing the scientific method.I just don’t know how a rational person could proceed otherwise.

      • Nyar says:

        That sounds reasonable tmac, if you don’t have the time, expertise, and/or inclination to be intellectually rigorous, then fallacies are a quick and easy short cut. Most of the time you will end up being correct anyway so that shouldn’t be a problem.

      • tmac57 says:

        So can I infer from your statement that you have the time,expertise,and or inclination to make you intellectually rigorous,or did you just want to commit an ad hominem attack?
        What qualifications do you possess,that would make you a convincing advocate for the proposition that what the consensus of scientists in the complex field of climate science have come to understand,is wrong?

      • Nyar says:

        Ad hom. I was just poking you with a stick a little. None of us have the time, expertise, or inclination to investigate every claim we are presented with so we all use fallacies much of the time and it usually works out ok.

        When did I say that I thought the consensus was wrong? I really don’t remember but I have made a lot of comments so I might have. But my contention in this particular debate was that a skeptic does have to accept the consensus as a condition of being a skeptic. If you guys would agree with that then I would most likely be satisfied.

      • tmac57 says:

        Nyar,it appeared to me that you were saying that WE weren’t being skeptical because we were falling for various fallacies,which we have been disputing for several iterations now.
        Where did anyone say that you were not a skeptic because you didn’t accept the consensus? We only defended why it was fair for US to accept a rational consensus.

      • Nyar says:

        It wasn’t about me specifically tmac, just skepticism in general.

        In item 10, Somite says

        “I’ll state it clearly. To be a skeptic you must accept the current scientific consensus.”

        No, that is not true.

      • Red herring. That research, when compiled to sufficient depth and rigor … becomes largely *a consensus.*

        Then there’s the “did I really say that” fallacy?

        Nyar said:

        Arguing that the majority must be right is another fallacy, the appeal to popularity.

        At which point Tmac noted he was (deliberately?) misreferencing the appeal to popularity fallacy.

        The Appeal to Popularity or Bandwagon Fallacy are fallacies only when the appeal is IRRELEVANT,I.E. “Skippy is the BEST peanut butter,because it’s sales are #1!”.That is distinctly different than the consensus of scientists with relevant and highly specialized education doing research to establish their hypothesis.

        Nyar, nice to bust you with your own words.

      • Nyar says:

        Gadfly, the only thing that you have busted is the myth that just about anyone calling himself a skeptic would know the definitions of common logical fallacies. Tmac’s definition of the fallacy is not consistent with its formal definition.

      • tmac57 says:

        My quote:”You are mistaken.The Appeal to Popularity or Bandwagon Fallacy are fallacies only when the appeal is IRRELEVANT”

        From the Fallacy Files Website:
        ” The Bandwagon Fallacy

        Appeal to Popularity
        Argument by Consensus
        Argumentum ad Populum
        Authority of the Many


        Idea I is popular.
        Therefore, I is correct.

        Everyone is selfish; everyone is doing what he believes will make himself happier. The recognition of that can take most of the sting out of accusations that you’re being “selfish.” Why should you feel guilty for seeking your own happiness when that’s what everyone else is doing, too?

        Source: Harry Browne, “The Unselfishness Trap”, from How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World (1973).


        The Bandwagon Fallacy is committed whenever one argues for an idea based upon an IRRELEVANT appeal to its popularity. ”

        If you have 100 relevant experts in a field that have drawn the same conclusion on existing evidence,and 1 lone dissenter,would a lawyer in a court be guilty of Appeal To Popularity if he used those 100 experts to back up his defense? I guess by your definition he would be guilty of that, and also Appeal To Authority.Neither of those would apply.

      • Nyar says:

        It would still be this fallacy, a claim has to be evaluated on its merits. If 100 experts think it true and only one non-expert thinks it isn’t, that doesn’t make it true, the claim must still be backed up by data, ALL appeals to it’s popularity are IRRELEVANT (unless the claim in question is “this is popular”).

        The fallacy lies in assuming that the majority or some authority must be correct simply because they are the majority or they are experts.

      • tmac57 says:

        Now I just think that you are dicking with me.No one can possibly be that dense.So either accept or reject what I wrote,and I will leave it to others to decide who understands what.Cheers :)

      • Nyar says:

        Others will decide to what to believe regardless of whether you leave it to them to not. I don’t know if you are just stating the obvious, or if you believe that you actually have some kind of authority over strangers on the internet, but it does seem to be a recurring problem with you guys.

        First Somite tries to re-define the word Skeptic specifically to exclude anyone who disagrees with the consensus on AGW, a definition clearly inconsistent with all previous definitions of the word.

        Then you (plural) try to re-define common logical fallacies in order to justify your own use of them.

        Eventually, Gadfly decrees that I am a persona non grata and that no one is to argue with me, except naturally for himself, and I guess you and Max.

        Finally, you now want to exit the debate, but not before imposing some new restrictions on me and others. Well guess what. I am not going to give you the satisfaction, I will make a mental note of what you wrote for future consideration, and then table it for an indefinite amount of time.

        Just to be clear, I neither accept nor reject what you wrote, despite your command that I do so. Cheers.

  11. SLC says:

    The reason why the warming from 1995 is not statistically significant is because of the anomalous result from 1998 which is an outlier, due to a very strong El Nino condition that year. If 1998 is removed from the data, the warming since 1995 is statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

    • Good points. And, per denialists who claim 1998 is the hottest year ever, no. NASA said, after 2005, that is was the hottest year ever, and now, we know that 2010 tied with it.

  12. CountryGirl says:

    Our current naturally occuring cyclical global warming began about 1850 (well before SUVs). Since that time the average worldwide temperature has increased about 0.7 C. The previous naturally occurring cyclical global warming was the Medieval warming period which had a temperature increase 2 to 3 times higher then our relatively moderate global warming. Between those two naturally occurring cyclical warming periods was a naturally occurring cyclical cooling period known as the mini-ice age. Givin the history of these cycles (this is the 33rd global warming period since the last ice age), it seems obvious that this one is not caused by human activity and that it will be followed by a global cooling period. Beware the minimum, global coolings are much harder on all animal and plant life then the relatively beniegn warming periods are.

    • tmac57 says:

      “Our current naturally occuring cyclical global warming began about 1850 (well before SUVs). ”
      Just about the time that the industrial revolution was beginning to hit it’s stride.

      • Joe says:

        Actually in the 1850’s the industrial revolution was in it infancy. it didn’t “hit it’s stride” until the 1900’s.

      • tmac57 says:

        The innovation of coal mining techniques in the late 18th century led to an explosion of coal production,that helped fuel the industrial revolution,and CO2 output starting around 1790.

    • What Tmac said, plus the addendum of you’re cutting off the currrent global warming in mid-cycle when you compare it to the late medieval.

      And, beware of confusing “obvious” and “oblivious.”

  13. Somite says:

    Not so obvious when you actually look at the data and have expertise.

  14. Max says:

    “Where are the temperature stations located? Have cities built up near them over the years, leading to false warming?”


  15. Mark says:

    First, I think people who believe in AGW tend to rely on only facts that support their opinion. Here is one fact that based purely on science. CO2 is not a green house gas. Wow bet that took everyone by surprise. Technically that is a false statement, but technically its also true. How do you get both? Well follow along and I’ll explain. Current levels of CO2 in our atmosphere averages 388 ppm (parts per million) with highs and lows of plus or minus 75 ppm. To have even the slightest effect as a green house gas it needs to be around 4000 ppm. Thus, CO2 in high enough levels can be a problem, however it is not at it’s current levels. So if CO2 is not contributing to global warming then what is? Notice I didn’t say AGW. The number one contributor to global warming is methane! Which by the way, more methane is release into the atmosphere from our oceans everyday than man puts out in a year. Not to mention all of the farm animals and other rotting and decaying vegetation from the land. So sure there could be global warming, but it’s not being cause by man.

  16. Gregor Samsa says:

    The “misconduct” in the so called ClimateGate affair was the stonewalling by the GRU scientists of requests for their data. Apparently review of the data that leads to published conclusions is not part of the peer review process. Is this true, scientists out there? If so, it should not be a surprise that a lot of people are reluctant to accept the conclusions.

    One of the files released in ClimateGate was harry_read_me.txt, produced by some schlemiel who had to make sense of the scattered and ill-defined databases as well as of the amateurish computer code that read and processed the data. Again, scientists, are the problems encountered by Harry at all typical in this type of project?

  17. Ken Fabos says:

    What an appallingly bad article – whilst the author messes with our minds with his attempt to show the surface temperature can’t tell us anything about climate change … glaciers keep retreating, sea levels keep rising, ocean heat content keeps rising (from above not from volcanoes below), ice shelves keep breaking away, ice sheets is accelerating in Greenland and Antarctica … No clear evidence of warming in short term selected bits of the temperature record so those real world indicators don’t count?

    Anyone who thinks surface temperatures are the pivotal evidence for a warming world is not looking at the whole picture – more like studiously focusing on surface temperatures whilst passing over the bigger picture; I can only believe the author does so deliberately, not to provide clarity on this important issue but to achieve the opposite.

    Truly, skepticblog ought to apply a lot more skepticism in it’s decisions on what to publish – IMO this is the worst kind of pseudo-science the sort that cloaks it’s intent to mislead with the appearance of being based on science and reason.

  18. Ken Fabos says:

    I’m withdrawing my previous comment – with apologies. Wrong article, wrong argument.

  19. Blowfli says:

    “This has led to the fact that, looking at warming trends since 1995, there has been no statistically significant warming. Global warming dissidents have used this fact to argue that global warming is not happening – whatever warming was happening in the latter half of the 20th century is now over, and this is all part of the natural cycle of temperature fluctuation.”

    Worth while to check the Skeptical Science phone App. Very good response to “It hasn’t warmed since 1998″. It cites total Earth Heat Content anomaly from 1950 and Ocean data (Murphy 2009 and Domingues et al 2008) It appears that that the ocean heating anomaly is far great than the land and atmosphere. So if GW disbelievers only consider land and atmosphere data, then their arguments are more robust.

  20. Bob says:

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  21. Bob says: