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Danny Weston on Hansen at the LSE

I recommend this report by Danny Weston (guest writing at Bishop Hill) of a talk at the London School of Economics given by NASA’s James Hansen. Hansen is a manic climate alarmist, and the audience was almost entirely other manic climate alarmists. But Weston himself managed to get a question in edgeways.

To echo many of the Bishop Hill commenters, congratulations to Danny Weston for attending this event, for spoiling the party by actually expressing doubts out loud about what Hansen said, and above all for writing his report of the event, for an influential climate skeptic blog.

Opponents, however manic, need to be listened to, and argued against. The point is often made here by commenters that arguing against such people as Hansen and this LSE audience is a waste of time and effort, and there is a definite and entirely understandable trace of this feeling in Weston’s own report. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In among that audience were other doubters besides Weston, a few of whom identified themselves to Weston afterwards sotto voce, congratulating him for what he said. Genuine undecideds, and even some of the majority who flatly disagreed with Weston, may also have been impressed by Weston’s sheer guts, as well as by his arguments. And by writing it all up, Weston greatly reinforces this silent bystander effect.

Weston ends his report with these words:

All in all a thoroughly depressing experience.

I hope that responses like this, and like the many other positive comments at Bishop Hill likewise full of congratulation and admiration, will have cheered Weston up a bit, and maybe even a lot.

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11 comments to Danny Weston on Hansen at the LSE

  • Steven

    I wonder how many talking heads and pundits on both sides of the climate change issue can even understand the technical papers, or even read those papers in the first place. The science is inaccessible because it is so technical, and scientists by and large are horrible communicators, and there is a real danger in not being able to really grasp the details of these papers and journals and relying on the science writers to get the message across to non-scientists and using that second-hand information to back a cause.

  • John B

    You do need to understand the technicalities of science to understand the scientific process and the concept of empirical evidence.

    Guess. Compare. Observe.

    If what you observe is what you guessed, your guess was right; if not guess again.

    Guess. CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere is the exclusive determinator of global temperatures and increases from Manmade emissions will cause a 3C to 6C rise in global temperatures.

    Observation. Global temperatures have not risen for 17 years, despite a rapid increase in Manmade emissions and the concentration of CO2 to double what it was 200 years ago, and have decreased slightly.

    Guess wrong.

    You also have to be aware that correlation does not prove causality in the absence of external verifying data, but where there is a causal link, there must be correlation.

    It is really that simple.

    None of the technical papers can show causality or correlation. None of the predictions have been supported by empirical evidence.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    John B

    I’m guessing (but only guessing) that there’s a “not” needed at the start of your comment. I can put it in if you would like that.

  • Jerry Conley

    ‘None of the predictions have been supported by empirical evidence.’

    But we HAVE to be right, the computer models all say we are !!!!

    And that, ladies and gentlemen is the major part of the persuasion used on masses of people that believe anything and everything that come out of a ‘computer’.
    I’ve dealt with that type of ‘faith’ in these things (computers) for decades and it is similar to the faith that collage /university professors are oracles that can only spew facts and ‘the truth’.

    Global warming ( climate change – so that we are covered either way ) is a religion and has nothing to do with science.

  • llamas

    Steven wrote:

    ‘The science is inaccessible because it is so technical, and scientists by and large are horrible communicators, and there is a real danger in not being able to really grasp the details of these papers and journals . . . .’

    and not to belabour what may be an obvious point, but – that’s what they want, and what they wanted all along.

    It is deliberately made inaccessible – for the same reason that the Catholic church used to conduct services in a language that the common clay did not understand. It is order to create and foster a priestly caste, who are the keepers of received wisdom and who can pronounce on all matters of faith and duty.

    The ‘real danger’ that you refer to is not a bug – it’s a feature.

    Hansen’s meeting was not intended to inform the public – think of it as a class at the seminary. All of those attending were already committed in their faith, the bishop was just delivering a doctrinal pep-talk. You can clearly see the religious flavour on display – anyone who questions or asserts a different viewpoint is not debated or engaged – they are simply dismissed as either being in error, or misled by the Dark One. The One True Faith is already established, deviation from it is not a subject for debate, but for excommunication.

    Just as Marx observed that religion is the opium of the people, so we may now observe that AGW is becoming the opium of the people. Millions of people already voluntarily perform bizarre ritual observances that they do not understand, at the behest of leaders they never asked for or elected, but who were simply installed over them. The religious parallels are just overwhelming.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Tedd

    Jerry Conley:

    That’s a good point. It would be very helpful if more people had the experience of actually trying to model something on a computer — especially something that involved change over time.

  • QuinT

    I have had the same depressing experiences, though not in such a forum, and my encounters with the AGW faithful–in particular the absence of variation–match his. These people invoke Science as others invoke God, as a transcendent entity that takes a side (theirs) in a political conflict. Onward Science soldiers and all that. All the while believing themselves to be among the most Enlightened persons ever to have graced the planet, wholly free of any kind of faith, myth or superstition whatsoever.

  • Steven

    llamas wrote:

    and not to belabour what may be an obvious point, but – that’s what they want, and what they wanted all along.

    It is deliberately made inaccessible – for the same reason that the Catholic church used to conduct services in a language that the common clay did not understand. It is order to create and foster a priestly caste, who are the keepers of received wisdom and who can pronounce on all matters of faith and duty.

    The ‘real danger’ that you refer to is not a bug – it’s a feature.

    What I mean is that the peer reviewed papers are inaccessible because they are technical. It’s not a question of being written so that no one can understand them for nefarious reasons so much as written for a specific audience that has the technical background to read and understand them. They’re written for scientists who have spent almost a decade studying just to get to the point that they can enter their field.

    Here’s an article title from the current issue of Nature. EGFR modulates microRNA maturation in response to hypoxia through phosphorylation of AGO2 (Jia Shen, et al.) Nature 497, 383–387 (16 May 2013) And the abstract:

    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are generated by two-step processing to yield small RNAs that negatively regulate target gene expression at the post-transcriptional level1. Deregulation of miRNAs has been linked to diverse pathological processes, including cancer2, 3. Recent studies have also implicated miRNAs in the regulation of cellular response to a spectrum of stresses4, such as hypoxia, which is frequently encountered in the poorly angiogenic core of a solid tumour5. However, the upstream regulators of miRNA biogenesis machineries remain obscure, raising the question of how tumour cells efficiently coordinate and impose specificity on miRNA expression and function in response to stresses. Here we show that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is the product of a well-characterized oncogene in human cancers, suppresses the maturation of specific tumour-suppressor-like miRNAs in response to hypoxic stress through phosphorylation of argonaute 2 (AGO2) at Tyr 393. The association between EGFR and AGO2 is enhanced by hypoxia, leading to elevated AGO2-Y393 phosphorylation, which in turn reduces the binding of Dicer to AGO2 and inhibits miRNA processing from precursor miRNAs to mature miRNAs. We also identify a long-loop structure in precursor miRNAs as a critical regulatory element in phospho-Y393-AGO2-mediated miRNA maturation. Furthermore, AGO2-Y393 phosphorylation mediates EGFR-enhanced cell survival and invasiveness under hypoxia, and correlates with poorer overall survival in breast cancer patients. Our study reveals a previously unrecognized function of EGFR in miRNA maturation and demonstrates how EGFR is likely to function as a regulator of AGO2 through novel post-translational modification. These findings suggest that modulation of miRNA biogenesis is important for stress response in tumour cells and has potential clinical implications.

    Now, I’m a moderately intelligent guy, but I’m no biologist. I can’t make heads nor tails of the abstract, much less have a chance of understanding the subtleties of the article. Neither meteorology nor climatology are any less technical or require any less training, so why should we assume that their peer-reviewed articles are any less difficult to understand for the non-educated? I’m not going to debate Stephen Hawking on the nature of black holes just because I once read A Brief History of Time, but I’m going to be an expert on the climate because I watched An Inconvenient Truth or read Merchants of Doubt when I can’t read the original papers?

    I’m not going to deny that people like Al Gore aren’t using the fear of climate change to push an agenda and/or line their own pockets, but I doubt that the vast majority of people pushing either way can’t even read the material they are claiming backs them up.

  • Midwesterner

    This has become a legend in discussions of research fraud. First published in the BMJ, this link is to NCBI of the NIH.

    Writing with wit and humor, it is a description of the more common forms of (in this case pharmaceutical) research fraud the authors have seen, presented in the form of offering their combined expertise in research fraud as a service to anyone with deep enough pockets. It is a dark comedy take on a very serious topic. Most of the methods described can be applied to almost any form of research.

  • Midwesterner

    Steven, like concealed carry works even if only one out of twenty or thirty people is carrying, free to the public release of research works even if only a tiny number of people can really understand it. That is why they have gone to such lengths to conceal their raw data, even to the point of destroying it and only being able to release “corrected” data. A small fraction of people if able to see their complete work, would understand it.

    I’ve noticed in reading pharmaceutical research a pattern that ‘not useful to manufacturers’ research is parked behind paywalls. Any research that will help a drug’s sales is plastered everywhere for free access. I first got suspicious when I noticed as a matter of writing style that the abstract and summary of a study I was reading supporting the tested drug, had been ghost written by what read like a marketing department. The rest of the paper in between was written by the researchers. It was transparently clear in the two very distinct writing styles.

    My opinion is that all research that is in any way used to regulate (including approvals/denials) or fund or justify government policies must be posted readily available for free to the public. All funding for cited research must be declared all the way back to the originating stockholder owned corporation. Any NPOs must fully disclose all funding back to the original source. All research in order to be citeable to regulate, fund, etc government policies must be disclosed before it begins. No research disclosed after it has commenced may be cited. If you read the paper I cited above, you’ll understand why I say that.

  • It’s worth pointing out, I think, that Danny is a researcher and lecturer on Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Sheffield…

    DK