Monday, April 26, 2010

Committees and Law Suits

Michael Mann, of Mann-Made Warming, has hired a law firm. His law firm wrote to Minnesotans for Global Warming (MGW), the makers of the Hide the Decline music video. This video uses a photograph of Dr. Mann's face. The letter from the lawyers demands that MGW stop using Dr. Mann's likeness, saying the "video clearly defames Professor Mann by leaving viewers with the incorrect impression that he falsified data to generate desired results". Youtube has removed all copies of the video, as well as a new version that does not use Dr. Mann's face. But No Cap and Trade is still hosting the original video, which I linked to earlier in this paragraph.

If Dr. Mann goes to court with MGW, his lawyers will argue that he did not fabricate measurements or data. But the defense will be able to address the definition of "data" and "measurement", and so shine light upon the idea of "value-added data" and "multi-proxy statistics". Dr. Mann combined measurements in a way that created a hockey-stick graph regardless of the input data, and even goes so far as to invert measurements that decline, so they rise instead, and contribute to the hockey-stick shape. Dr. Mann presented his Hockey Stick Graph as if it were a measurement. Either he knew full well that he was falsifying this measurement, or he became confused and did not understand his own mistake. Subsequent inquiries prompted by the work of Mr. McIntyre gave Dr. Mann ample opportunity to see his error and withdraw his graph. But Dr. Mann still insists that his graph is a useful measurement of global temperature changes over the past thousand years.

A law suit bestows the power of subpoena. Dr. Mann could be interrogated in court or during depositions. He would have to answer questions about his work. He would not be able to dismiss the inverted-measurement accusation as "bizarre" and say nothing more about it. So I hope the case goes to court. I would donate to the MGW legal fund.

Here's another law suit. Climate modeler Andrew Weaver asked Canada's National Post to "retract a number of recent articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held." Perhaps Mr. Weaver is referring to articles like this, in which he comes across as a conspiracy theorist. The National Post refused to retract their statements, so Mr. Weaver is suing them for "grossly irresponsible falsehoods" and for insults posted in the on-line comments.

Mr. Weaver's case looks like it will degenerate into an argument about what he said in interviews, not an argument about the science. So I'm not as enthusiastic about his law suit. I hope the paper did not misrepresent him. I image being misrepresented must be frustrating.

A second inquiry into Climategate has produced its conclusion. This inquiry was headed by Lord Oxburgh and was instigated by the University of East Anglia, home of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and epicenter of the entire affair. The inquiry concluded that the scientists involved did nothing wrong. This conclusion has been greeted with enthusiasm by most climatologists, such as those providing content at Realclimate, but there are some climatologists who are not satisfied by either the Oxburgh Report or the Parliamentary Report. Vocal among the critics of these reports is Judith Curry. She notes, and we agree with her, that neither report addresses any of the main issues raised by critics of climate science, such as those listed in by Mr. McIntyre in his submission to the Parliamentary Committee. But the two inquiries were supposed to identify any "wrong-doing" on the part of CRU scientists. I'm not sure what "wrong-doing" is.

The point of Climategate is that climatologists don't obey the same rules as the rest of us in other fields of science. We don't substitute instrument data for proxy data and then plot the result as if it were all proxy data (Gavin Schmidt). If I were to hide a trend using a trick, I would deserve to be fired from my position. It's not up to committees to condemn climatologists. It's up to us scientists in other fields to distance ourselves from their work so that their field can no longer lay claim to the authority that has been earned by properly-conducted science over the past three centuries.

These law suits hold more promise than the committees. In the law suits, the definition of scientific conduct would be addressed, and judges are good at understanding the logic of definitions. Let's not forget the great work done by Judge John E. Jones on the subject of intelligent design. He judged that the definition of "science" was that it addressed natural phenomena only, so any theory, such as intelligent design, which mentioned the existence of a super-natural being, was by definition non-scientific, regardless of its truth or falsehood. We need a judge like him in the Dr. Mann vs. MGW case.

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