Monday, 28 June 2010

Commenting on lists and name-calling

Well, last week Marc Morano posted my email on his climatedepot website and his email blast, in the process of comparing me to the Stasi (secret police of the former East German one-party-rule Communist regime.) Over the past week I've had a stream of hostile emails in response.

Here I re-post an earlier reply I gave at Joe Romm's ever lively and thought-provoking site

As for web lists of statement signers: thanks Michael Tobis for saying it better than I ever could. Every list I compiled was from a statement already posted on the web. All the links are on my page of list sources ~prall/ climate/ list_sources.html

As for Marc Morano’s attempt to Swiftboat this as “Stasi-esque”: what amazing gall! He’s famous for having built a long list of climate skeptics during his term with Sen. Inhofe. Hypocrite! Why wasn’t that list “Stasi-esque?” Just because he agreed with their “side”?
Nothing in our PNAS paper justifies comparisons to the Stasi. We don’t *say* anyone should persecute or blacklist signers of either type of statement, because of course we *don’t believe* that. (Hard to believe I’m even having to say this at all.) What we say is that the media should consider people’s qualifications and standing (oooh!)
The only other way to spin this into something sinister is to argue that someone evil *might use* the lists to persecute people regardless of our intentions. That seems to be the main theme at Roger Pielke Jr’s blog.

That objection of what someone might do with the list really falls down on the point Michael makes so well, that all the source lists I compiled were already on the web. Anyone who could misuse my list could just as well have found the same names on the original sources, or many of the same names plus many more on Morano’s list – and not all on his list by choice.

Morano publicized his list relentlessly, and listed many more names as skeptics than I have. Morano also tended to quotemine, leading to false positives where the person in question would protest their inclusion as unrepresentative of their actual views, yet Morano would refuse to take them off. He’d just point to the mined quote he had, ignoring anything the source might say about being taken out of context or trying to tell him what their actual views are.

If the fear is that someone biased against supporters of one “side” could focus their bias on people on a list, why was it okay for Morano to subject people to that risk with his list? Was Morano’s list “Stasi-esque” as well? If not, why not?

Thanks again to those offering supportive comments on the PNAS paper. Since Morano published my email and compared me to the Stasi, let’s just say I’ve had a stream of unfriendly responses. (Oddly, people keep sending me really weak arguments like “there is no greenhouse effect” or predicting global cooling.)

That's the end of my posting on climateprogress. Site host Joe Romm aptly commented:

[JR: Remember, Morano publicly stated how he believes climate scientists should be treated: “I seriously believe we should kick them while they’re down,” he said. “They deserve to be publicly flogged.” He proudly linked to that interview on his blog.


Vinny Burgoo said...

The only other way to spin this into something sinister is to argue that someone evil *might use* the lists to persecute people regardless of our intentions. ... That objection of what someone might do with the list really falls down on the point Michael makes so well, that all the source lists I compiled were already on the web.

I'm not convinced by this blacklist thing but the point is that your lists have now received the PNAS imprimatur. Anyone can make lists and stick them on the Web. Who cares? But PNAS-stamped lists are a whole nother thing. They really are potential (but, IMO, unlikely) blacklist fodder.

While I'm here, can you please clarify one aspect of your methods? Your PNAS paper suggests an ambiguous method of searching Google Scholar for references and citations [I can't find the PDF! It was something like 'Finit Lastname' - something that suggested that only the first initial was used, anyway] and your website provides exact search terms that sort-of agree with this method but often had two or more initials. Fair enough. However, repeating the searches using those terms now produces some strange results - eg, fewer 'climate' publications for some authors than you found a year or more ago.

Did you hand-finish the Google Scholar results for selected authors? That is, did you use extra name-variants for some of the authors on your lists?


Anna Haynes said...

If you make a difference, you'll get people shooting arrows at you. Look at it as a badge of honor.

And hey, big congratulations on the paper - that is so cool that you stepped up to the plate and did it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog, it's a good way for everyone to see the political bias behind your work!

Anonymous said...

No one cares. No one is going to listen to people like Jim Prall. Ever. Deal with it buddy. We don't believe you, there's nothing you can say to make us believe you, and it isn't because we closed our minds; you closed them for us with exactly the kind of attitude that leads to behavior like this ridiculous list.

Don't listen to Freeman Dyson, he doesn't know what he's talking about! The man, and most of the men and women on that list, could and would run rings around the Phil Joneses and Jim Pralls of the world. Not because they're smarter. But because they're more honest and they're also correct. Too bad so sad to see all those climate conferences devolve into jack squat, huh?

By the way, when you want to make sure your condescension gets through, write like this, not your half-assed attempt at not coming off haughty. Hilarious brother.

Nick Palmer said...

Hi I read your U of T page on sources and thought you might be interested in passing on my views of an aspect of the OISM petition that seems to have been barely noticed by all the people culling the Mickey Mice and Spice girls and assessing the validity of the PhDs?

Here is a link to a comment I made on, which covers the strawmen inherent in the very wording of the petition itself.

link to my comment on skepticalscience's OISM page

Jim Prall said...

Thanks, Nick. Your comments on ScepticalScience make good sense.

My take on the OISM signers is that the great majority of them were genuinely skeptical of mainstream/consensus climate science (not just relying on the fact that the petition's language only rejects an extreme outcome.) The key point is that the petition has been touted as having lots of signers with relevant expertise, while in fact it cast a very wide net and took everyone's word for it that they had a B.Sc. in almost anything. Anybody with a BSc *ought* to be able to tell a gigaton from a petagram or a ppm; however the source population for having a BSc in anything is a pretty large number (six or seven figures in the U.S., perhaps?)

The petition's own organizers narrowed down their own figures on signers with (any) Ph.D., around 9K, and further to people who they identified as climatologists (double digits), though they never identifies which signers they counted under these figures.

Nick Palmer said...

(six or seven figures in the U.S., perhaps?) reckons over 10 million US citizens fit the OISM signing criteria.

0.3% of those who could have done actually signed...

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your work.

Just a quick note to let you know that your list contains an error. Your link to Michael Mann goes to the wrong Michael Mann. There's more than one of them.

Take care