Sunday, July 13, 2008

How "real" science is being done today

Want to know the grounds for the multi-trillion-dollar proposals before the U.S. congress and other world government bodies? (I refer, of course, to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 and the International Energy Agency's call for a $45 trillion investment in "clean technology.")

The scientific grounds for these proposals are . . . absolutely mind-blowing, to put it mildly.

If you've never been to before, I recommend you check it out. The site's owner and primary author, Steve McIntyre is deeply concerned about the matter of scientific credibility. For good reason.

Mr. McIntyre is trained and experienced in uncovering fraud in mining company investment offerings. (A company that owns a gold mine, for example, may claim it has 25 million tons of proven, high-grade, gold-bearing ore in a certain mine. Mr. McIntyre's job is to look at the data and determine whether the company's claim is valid or not.)

Using the same bullheaded search for truth in the "global climate change" debate, Mr. McIntyre has been discovering that the leading spokespeople for the kind of hysteria that seems to rule the day . . . --these people seem, regularly, to ignore the rules of thoroughgoing scientific research: they cherry-pick their data, "forget" to document their work, refuse to permit fully independent inquiry into their data and methodology, and, overall, make it as difficult as possible for anyone but themselves--the alarmist masters--to evaluate their work.

For one minor example of this phenomenon, take McIntyre's May 11, 2006, post for example, in which he questions the dendroclimatological studies [tree-ring based studies of climate change over time] of a supposed "leader" in the field, one J. Esper.

McIntyre reveals something Esper conveniently never mentioned in a major peer-reviewed paper he had published in Science magazine: Esper had collected a lot more data than he reported on.

So McIntyre asked Esper
two . . . methodological questions - one that I’ve been asking for a while: how he operationally allocates tree populations into “linear” and “nonlinear” trees . . . [and how] he decide[d] which trees to use and which trees not to use.

Here, verbatim, is the second (and, for my purposes in this post, most pertinent) question that McIntyre put to Esper via Science:
In 4 cases (Athabaska, Jaemtland, Quebec, Zhaschiviersk), Esper’s site chronology says that not all of the data in the data set is used. This is not mentioned in the original article. What is the basis for de-selection of individual cores?

This is Esper’s "non-responsive answer" as quoted by McIntyre:
As described, in some of the sites we did not use all data. We did not remove single measurements, but clusters of series that had either significantly differing growth rates or differing age-related shapes, indicating that these trees represent a different population, and that combining these data in a single RCS run will result in a biased chronology. By the way, we excluded other sites because growth was too rapid, for example.

"First, consider Esper’s statement," McIntyre pleads:
“As described, in some of the sites we did not use all data.” I challenge anyone to locate any “description” or even hint in the four corners of Esper et al 2002 that they did not use all the data, let alone any reason for why they did not use all the data. There is no “description” or even hint in Esper et al 2002 [the original article] that all the data was not used. The admission came only in response to my parsing through data that took nearly two years to get.

Esper now says that cores were de-selected to avoid a “biased chronology” and cited Esper et al 2003 as a suppposed authority for the procedure. However an examination of Esper et al 2003 provides no such authority. In fact, the closest thing in Esper et al 2003 to such a statement is the following, which I’ve quoted before:

Before venturing into the subject of sample depth and chronology quality, we state from the beginning, “more is always better”. However as we mentioned earlier on the subject of biological growth populations, this does not mean that one could not improve a chronology by reducing the number of series used if the purpose of removing samples is to enhance a desired signal. The ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology.

Here Esper is talking about removing data to “enhance a desired signal”. Excuse me - that doesn’t sound like a way of avoiding a “biased chronology”; it sounds like a recipe for making biased chronologies - biased towards a “desired signal.”

What do you think?


For some fundamental understanding of what McIntyre is up against, see Kyoto protocol based on flawed statistics, The M&M Critique of the MBH98 Northern Hemisphere Climate Index: Update and Implications and/or Backgrounder for McIntyre and McKitrick “Hockey Stick Project”.
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