JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


The Skeptics Handbook

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The Skeptics Handbook II

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Australian Environment Conference Oct 20 2012


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The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Three times as many Australians think the ABC has a pro-Labor bias

The ABC will declare that “most Australians don’t think the ABC is biased” but while half the nation thinks it’s balanced, 30% don’t know, and of the 20% who are sure there is bias, there are three times as many who think it’s pro-Labor as those who think it’s pro-Coalition. Bear in mind ABC1 only has about 10% of the Australian audience, so 90% of the nation prefers to watch something else. Did the survey ask respondents if they watch the ABC? We might find that of the 20% of the population who are familiar with ABC coverage, most think it’s biased to the left.  With some probing questions, we might also find that people of different political persuasions define bias very differently. Could it be that those more likely to vote for the Coalition tend to value free speech even if they don’t agree with the views?

On the other hand those more likely to vote Labor or Green seem to think balance means skeptics shouldn’t speak at all. Is their idea of bias just “if the ABC allows skeptics to comment”. The Centre for Independent Journalism had a whole forum devoted to asking whether “balance” meant they still [...]

ABC, Dr Helen Caldicott sinks to mocking the unwell, Monckton calls for her to be deregistered

Helen Caldicott and the ABC have excelled themselves in the Art of Ad Hominem. So much so, that Christopher Monckton is not only writing to the ABC, but also to medical registration boards as well, calling for Caldicotts’s de-registration.

On ABC Radio National (about 25% into the program). Reader Steve, writes that “Helen Caldicott declares that climate change sceptic Christopher Monckton has “got thyrotoxicosis and bilateral exophthalmos”. She gives the impression that such conditions should prevent Monckton from engaging in the public debate. Waleed Aly said nothing to stop Dr Caldicott’s ad hominem attack on Monckton’s alleged medical condition.”

Is she not aware Monckton had Graves?

Caldicott is a doctor and also the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, “an organization of 23,000 doctors”. [See her Bio]. Perhaps she thinks it would be “socially responsible” to start a show where panels of doctors speculated on the medical conditions of celebrities they had never met? They could make fun of fat politicians and disabled sports stars? What fun. How about the laughs of picking on Stephen Hawking?

Stephan Lewandowsky could be a regular guest, pronouncing that non-Labor-Green fans were paranoid conspiracy [...]

Lewandowsky’s “research team”. Who is Mike Hubble-Marriott?

The fourth name on the new Lewandowsky paper is Mike Hubble-Marriott, from “Climate Realities Research, Melbourne”. What isn’t listed on the paper, is that Mike’s “climate research” is published under the anonymous moniker of Mike, on a site called WatchingTheDeniers A site incidentally, which is linked in the paper. Perhaps they ought to have disclosed that?

Climate Realities Research has no website, it doesn’t appear to be a registered business, and Googling doesn’t shed any light on it. Just how serious is his research?

“Mike” gave it away on The Conversation blog a long time ago, sort of, saying “my real name which is Michael Marriott – thus, any charges of anonymity can be dealt with.” Hubble-Marriott, or Marriott, what’s the difference? Hmm. (See Watching the Deniers) In his other life, he worked for a law firm as an information services manager. Perhaps he still does? But now apparently he’s a climate researcher. OK.

I’m not fussy about qualifications, there are plenty of Profs who can’t think. But Lewandowsky and Hubble-Marriott think qualifications are all that matter. Hypocrisy anyone?

Mike commented on this blog in March 2010 as “Mike” on this thread, but in the end failed the logic and [...]

Wipeout poll. Labor down 6 percent. Polls swinging wildly

In the last week, Australia was flooded or burned, Gillard called an election 9 months ahead, two of her highest ranking party members said they would quit, Gillard cut down a long serving senator to pop in her “captains pick” candidate, and one of her former party members was arrested with 150 charges to be laid. Labor is back to the polling territory it spent most of last year at — a 32% primary vote and the Greens at 9%.  But these polls are swinging wildly.

I can’t think why Gillard likes this uncertainty, and doesn’t call an election immediately…

The Australian:

The poll puts Labor’s primary support at 32 per cent – a wipeout of the six-point gain recorded between December and January – as the Coalition’s support rose four percentage points to 48 per cent in the past three weeks.

With the Greens steady on 9 per cent and “others” going from 9 per cent to 11 per cent since the poll in January, the two-party-preferred figure has the Coalition back with a huge election-winning lead of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

Ms Gillard’s support as preferred prime minister fell four percentage points from 45 per [...]

Monckton returns to Australia, book now… :-)

He’s dangerous. During his last Australian tour he debated at the National Press Club, and a phenomenal 9% of the polled audience changed their mind in an hour. Fifty university academics (including Lewandowsky) tried to get Monckton banned from speaking at a university. Activists were so scared they intimidated a few venue operators into canceling his speeches at the last minute (but the show always went on bigger and better somewhere else).

Monckton was escorted right out of Doha after speaking the bleeding obvious from the floor, he leapt from a plane in Durban, and he convinced the prof who wanted to execute skeptics to withdraw it with an apology.

GetUp are so afraid Australians might hear more of Monckton and people like him, they panicked and ran a whole ad campaign packed with conspiracy theories at the mere hint that libertarians might like to set up a Fox news equivalent in Australia. The travesty!

It’s an election year, we’re subject to a heatwave of weather propaganda. It’s the perfect time for Christopher Monckton to make an entrance, and right now he’s on a plane on the way. Officially the tour starts in South Australia, on February 2. See the [...]

American Geophysical Union – cheat, deceive, steal, “It’s OK”.

The American Geophysical Union – can it be saved?

Seriously: the 2012 Convention included Mann, Gleick, Lewandowsky, Oreskes and Cook.

If you are one of the 58,000 members, you could ask yourself if you want to be aligned to an organization that thinks “science” means sometimes you need to impersonate someone else, steal their documents, and hide your own data. Is it AGU science if you use algorithms so badly that you could replace your data with a phone book and produce the same result? What if your data is used upside down? The AGU thinks you should speak twice.

Is it the AGU’s idea of “rigorous” if you make headlines out of irreproducible results that use flawed samples, fake data, and issue a press release months before your paper is even ready to be published? Is a sample size of ten in a self-selecting internet poll enough to publish a paper? Do you find out the opinions of one group by interviewing the people who hate them, but then present the results as if you surveyed the first group? Is it OK to call people who disagree with you insulting names? John Cook does, and he was invited [...]

Parncutt Death Threat: Uni of Graz “shocked”, Monckton gets it withdrawn with apology. John Cook says nothing.

Christopher Monckton and many other skeptics have been writing to Prof Richard Parncutt who had posted a dissertation telling us “logically” influential climate skeptics should be executed. (His words recorded at Webcite). Below, Monckton points out it is a hate-crime, and he will begin notifying Austrian prosecutors, Interpol, the International Criminal Court, and possibly Australian authorities too. In response, Parncutt unconditionally apologizes and withdraws the suggestion. [For some reason, lots of people can't see anything at this link, but it works for me. Try cut and pasting < http://www.uni-graz.at/~parncutt/climatechange.html?]

Meanwhile, does John Cook seemingly endorse care enough to post or even tweet or email an objection to the original shocking threat that skeptics should recant or die. So far, no? His ad hominem ambush site (misleadingly called “SkepticalScience“)  was referred to as “evidence” by Parncutt. (See also Debunking un-SkepticalScience). Five posts have gone up since Christmas, WUWT has heard from Dana (of Cook’s site), yet neither Dana nor Cook has not issued a single sentence indicating that he doesn’t think killing skeptics is a good idea.* (Dana apparently says privately, We of course don’t agree with giving denialists the death penalty, which is good to hear, though Dana’s baseless namecalling [...]

Maurice Newman fights back: No slur is too vicious for Robyn Williams and the ABC

When Robyn Williams recently equated skeptics to paedophiles on the ABC “Science” Show the skeptic-most-targeted was Maurice Newman, former chairman of the ABC itself. Newman responds to these deplorable and unscientific insults in today’s Australian and throws down the challenge to the current board.

ABC clique in control of climate by: MAURICE NEWMAN From: The Australian December 18, 2012 12:00AM

On November 24, Robyn Williams intoned to his audience on ABC’s The Science Show, “if I told you that pedophilia is good for children, or asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma, or, that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, you’d rightly find it outrageous. Similar statements are coming out of inexpert mouths again and again, distorting the science”. My article was given as an example of an anti-scientific position.Really? Questioning climate science is like advocating pedophilia, abetting mesothelioma and pushing drugs to teenagers? Well yes, according to the ABC’s science man. Stephan Lewandowsky, a guest on the program, asserted that those with a free market background were, according to his research, more likely to be sceptical of science. As well as climate science, “they are also rejecting the link between [...]

BREAKING: Skeptics equated to pedophiles — Robyn Williams ABC. Time to protest.

Hat tip to Graham Young editor of Online Opinion.

“That is worse than anything Alan Jones said. ” Follow Graham Young on twitter.

A bad-taste joke by Alan Jones in October created a national storm. These comments in the “science” show were supposedly considered, deliberate and researched.

This morning on the “science” show Robyn Williams equates skeptics to pedophiles, people pushing asbestos, and drug pushers. Williams starts the show by framing republicans (and skeptics) as liars: “New Scientist complained about the “gross distortions” and “barefaced lying” politicians come out  with…” He’s goes on to make the most blatant, baseless, and outrageous insults by equating skeptics to people who promote pedophilia, asbestos and drugs.

“What if I told you pedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthmatics, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous, but there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, distorting the science.”

“These distortions of science are far from trivial, our neglect of what may be clear and urgent problems could be catastrophic and now a professor of [...]

Are ARC grants for science or a form of government advertising disguised as research?

ARC Grants have just been announced for 2013

Let’s look at what won a grant in light of the fact that nearly 80% of all the applications for ARC funding fail. (Indeed Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt wonders if our best scientists are hobbled by an arduous waste-of-time process where they spend up to 30% – 50% of their working life applying for grants.)

Looking at the current round of successful grants. How do you beat four out of five candidates for funding? Here’s one successful method:

Step One: Use statistically insignificant results obtained by dubious techniques to generate a paper with conclusions that grab headlines.

Step Two: Make sure these “results” support contentious Labor Party policies, and actively promote the spurious conclusions in the media prior to publication.

Step Three (optional): Possibly go on to publish the paper, then again, maybe not.

Step Four: Apply for more money.

Apparently the ALP need to find budget savings from the science program to deliver their promised “surplus”. They are thinking of a grants freeze — which is a good way to create uncertainty and encourage the best researchers to leave the country. Here’s [...]

Stephan is back: climate, cancer, what’s the difference?

Stephan Lewandowsky is back, reminding us why argument-by-distant-unrelated-topic is a quick way to get confused.

Should we spend money trying to change the weather? Spin the wheel: Did smoking cause cancer? “Yes!” Was that money well spent? “Yes!” Is climate sensitivity 3.3C! “Yes” . The heck, it must be, because some different scientists were right about a different topic, in a different subject, in a another era. Look at how similar the problems are?  No one was sure if any particular lung cancer was due to smoking, just “like” no one will ever know if Sandy was caused by your SUV. Climate starts with “C” and so does Cancer. Spooky eh?

The answer to planetary dynamics comes from tactical analysis of PR strategies by people who oppose The Consensus. Why do we even bother with satellite measurements, cloud microphysics or ARGO buoys?

No atmospheric evidence will convince Lewandowsky, he’s  looking for code words in the commentariat.

The tobacco industry claims that smoking does not cause cancer, preferring instead to think of medical science as an “oligopolistic cartel” that “manufactures alleged evidence” linking smoking to cancer.

Climate deniers likewise accuse climate science of being “riddled with corruption” and of manipulating or [...]

Government funds anti-science name-calling crowd: “deniers”, skeptics are old “will be gone soon”

There’s a mindset, a world view here that’s profoundly unreal, anti-science, and of course, fully funded by the Taxpayer from start to end (how could it be any other way?).

From the researcher who holds childish assumptions and misunderstands his own results, to the site that posts it all as if it were “higher thought”, to the trained communicator of science who then parrots the mistakes and insults half the population at the same time. Cheers! Private money couldn’t fund a satire like “The Conversation”. (Well, it could if it were funny.)

The Conversation recall was funded with $6 million.

Stephan continues his war on science

Lewandowsky’s bread and butter stuff is breaking the central tenet of science — namely, that evidence is more important than opinions. His mission (though I don’t think he’s aware of it) appears to be to return us to pre-Enlightenment days when Bishops controlled the public conversation. In this post-post-modern era, some things are so post they’re posterior – some parts of science are returning to unscience.  This “science” is not about your data or reasoning, and not about your results — it’s about your ability to get a grant, a title, a university badge. [...]

Gergis hockey stick withdrawn. This is what 95% certainty looks like in climate science.

In May it was all over the newspapers, in June it was shown to be badly flawed. By October, it quietly gets withdrawn.  The apology and press release are coming soon…right?

Thanks to help from the Australian Research Council it only took 300,000 dollars and three years to produce a paper that lasted all of three weeks. But it scored the scary headlines! It was “confirmation”, it was “unprecedented warming”, and it was a scientific certainty that was based on “27 natural climate records” and  “over the last 1000 years”. What could possibly go wrong? They had 2 whole proxies that went right back a thousand years, and they’d used computers (!) to rehash the data 3000 ways!  Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted three weeks. Let’s remember that if one single journalist had simply asked “how much colder was it in 1200AD?” Gergis, Karoly and the rest would have had to say “0.09 of a degree”. No one asked. But Gergis et al, had a proxy in Tasmania, and another in New Zealand, and they were “confident” they could calculate the whole grand continental collective temperature to nine one hundredths of a degree? Seriously.

As Mike E then pointed out [...]

Lewandowsky — A paper of questionable ethics, approved in a last minute switch

Prof Stephan Lewandowsky had to make an ethics committee application in order to survey anti-skeptics to “find out” whether skeptics are conspiracy mad nutters (as you would). Simon Turnill launched an FOI to ask for information and has received some  information.  Turnill wondered why the application seemed so unrelated to the survey. I pointed out that  I’d seen a different Lewandowsky paper that fitted the description in the application. Simon hunted and found Popular Consensus: Climate Change Set to Continue (where Lewandowsky shows people in the Hay St. Mall, in Perth, some “stock market” graphs and asks them to extrapolate the trend).

Lewandowsky appears to have obtained an ethics approval for this bland paper, and then put in a last minute request for a “slight modification” which was for an entirely different survey for a different purpose and an unrelated paper, and which, as it happens, uses an internet survey rather than a face to face one. But apart from that… it was nearly the same.

Worse, Turnill found that by the time Lewandowsky was finalizing the ethics application in August 2010, he’d already done that bland survey fully 7 months before, and the paper was almost finished. The [...]

Lewandowsky part VIII: Formal moves for a Governance Review of the STW blog.

Some skeptics wonder why I bother pursing and documenting the problems with Lewandowsky et al 2012 and with the blog ShapingTomorrowsWorld. They figure that all skeptics now know the papers dismal failings, and it’s clear that Lewandowsky is unlikely to be grateful for the help.

But Lewandowsky exposes people higher up to awkward questions. Why do they fund work so unscientific? Why do they allow such hypocrisy and bias on a government funded publication? Are standards at the University of Western Australia (UWA) so low that they can’t find a Professor who understands the scientific method, and can reason without name-calling? Aren’t other statisticians at UWA concerned at what Lewandowsky is doing to the reputation of “UWA Statistics”? Finally, aren’t the scientists who missed out on ARC funding angry that our taxpayer funds are given instead to someone who apparently uses the funds to promote his personal political views, instead of in the pursuit of knowledge? (See: Lewandowsky gets $1.7m of taxpayer funds to denigrate people who disagree with him)

The abject incompetence is a gift to us. Rarely is a study so outrageously bad that people with no scientific background [...]

McIntyre v Lewandowsky — Can we call in a statistician at UWA to help Lew?

The Lewandowsky view is Drilling into noise. The McIntyre response: Lewandowsky’s Fake Correlation

My favourite Lewandowsky line is: “We cannot get into the details here…”

McIntyre can and does in gory depth. He posts the equations, the code, the tables, everything. He graphs the residuals, and shows the “severe non-normality” of them. He tests the correlation and finds that the two most obvious fake responses heavily affect the results:

“Lewandowsky is absolutely off-base in his assertion that the examination of outliers is inappropriate statistical analysis. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case: proper statistical analysis REQUIRES the examination of outliers.”

“One can readily see that the two super-scammers (889, 963) contribute essentially 100% (over 100%) actually of the negative correlation between CauseHIV and CYMoon in this calculation.”

Lewandowsky says: “no one who has toyed with our data has thus far exhibited any knowledge of the crucial notion of a latent construct or latent variable.”

McIntyre replies: “Principal components, a frequent topic at this blog, are a form of latent variable analysis.”

As a former graduate of UWA, this is embarrassing. Does UWA not teach and use rigorous statistical methods? Is there no one who can help him?

Plus, when will [...]

Lewandowksy, Oberauer, Gignac – Is the paper bad enough to make history?

Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac, Klaus Oberauer

The scathing blog posts are popping up everywhere. From William Briggs we get a sense of the historical importance of the Lewandowsky et al effort. One day a terrific psychological study is going to be written on the madness and mass lunacy which arose after climate change swam into the public’s ken… The cornerstone of this future pathological report may well be the peer-reviewed Psychological Science paper “NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles Gignac, perhaps the completest, most representative work of its odd era. “Everything that could have been done wrong, was done wrong. Every bias that could have been manifested, was manifested. Every fallacy pertinent to the matter at hand was made. The conclusions, regurgitated from unnecessarily complicated statistical procedures, did not follow from the evidence gathered, which itself was suspect. In its way, then, the paper is a jewel, a gift to the future, a fundamental text to how easy it is to fool oneself. “ Steve McIntyre goes through the statistical tests, finds questionable practices, questions he can’t answer, and general [...]

Lewandowsky gets $1.7m of taxpayer funds to denigrate people who disagree with him

Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac, Klaus Oberauer

Stephen Lewandowsky’s paper, soon to be published in Psychological Science, appears to be drawn from one or two grants from the Australian Research Council that total nearly a million dollars (though it’s not entirely clear which grants apply to the paper).

“If you wonder, like I do, whether the Australian taxpayer gets value for money, ponder that somewhere a cancer researcher was denied funding in order for Lewandowsky to do his work”

One grant, which he shares with coauthor Dr Klaus Oberauer, was for $694,000 for research on “Keeping Memory Current: Updating and Discounting of Information“. Apparently it is of national benefit, because: “Basic research in psychology is of particular national benefit because the available national research funding is commensurate with the requirements of world-class research in psychology.” “World class” does not usually mean research based on a logical error with a sample too small to be statistically significant and using a self-selecting, unsecure, sample from sites that detest the research group. Aside from that, the sentence itself is circular bureaucratese-babble. What does it mean? Is he suggesting that research in basic psychology is useful because taxpayer funds are only given to world class [...]

Lewandowsky does “science” by taunts and attempted parody instead of answering questions

Stephan Lewandowsky is rattled. Not surprisingly. Right now, his blog has gone from a steady run of zero-to-three-comment-posts up to 200, and the skeptics are armed with cutting questions.

But the more he writes, the worse it gets.  Skeptics have picked apart his methods, his data, his transparency, and his conclusions. His latest responses are childish taunts with variants of name-calling. What place does an unrelated smear have in a science debate? It’s an effort to distract people.

His paper, in press, has been shown to have a misleading headline, with worthless conclusions based on statistically insignificant number of responses, using a clumsy one-sided test — the aim of which was obvious to most readers. When asked for data he provided answers to 32 questions but still hides the results obtained to a quarter of his original survey, including the basic demographics. He changed the order of questions depending on the blog he sought replies from — effectively putting different versions of the survey up (see below for his explanation). He himself emailed or was named in emails to alarmist anti-skeptic bloggers, while he used an unknown assistant to email skeptical blogs. These non-standard methods were not described in his paper.

[...]

Steve McIntyre finds Lewandowsky’s paper is a “landmark of junk science”

Steve McIntyre audited Stephan Lewandowsky’s data to weed out the obvious fake responses. That people would “game” the test was predictable given the clumsy nature of the survey, the one-sided nature of the conspiracies investigated, the virulently anti-skeptic sites where it was hosted, and the comments on the threads where it was announced. Obviously the survey hoped to show skeptics were nutters, and when it was posted in front of those who-hate-skeptics, readers obliged.

Steve McIntyre weighs in with a lengthy post, several original graphs, and concludes:

“Lewandowsky, like Gleick, probably fancies himself a hero of the Cause. But ironically. Lewandowsky’s paper will stand only as a landmark of junk science – fake results from faked responses.

As Tom Curtis observed, Lewandowsky has no moral alternative but to withdraw his paper.”

When the number of responses to conspiracies are graphed against  the share that is “skeptical” of man-made global warming McIntyre reveals an interesting pattern.  The “Oklahoma” point on the bottom right of the graph was the most popular conspiracy theory — but percentage-wise, “alarmists” were more likely to support this theory than so called “skeptics” were.

The line across the graph represents the proportion of the total responses which [...]