Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mea Culpas, Dry Holes and the Psychology of Hysteriacs

I make mistakes. (Gasps, quick intakes of breath, and thousands saying "tell me it isn't so", comes from the crowd). I know, it is impossible to believe, although my wife says she learned of this human failing of mine in the months before we got married. Dave, who posts under the memorable and pronounceable moniker of woox0LAVhIhtvEOQoeAC7D7Bm6_eesOdZg-- has accused me of making some math errors (more gasps). One I agree with one I don't. But hey, that's life.

I used to be very good with elementary math, then I took calculus. My error reminds me of Eduard Kummer

“Eduard Kummer, another professional mathematician who lived and taught in Germany in the 1840s, was also bad at elementary arithmetic: "One story has him standing before a blackboard, trying to compute 7 times 9. 'Ah,' Kummer said to his high school class, '7 times 9 is eh, uh, is uh .. : '61' one of his students volunteered. 'Good: said Kummer, and wrote 61 on the board. 'No' said another student, 'it's 69' 'Come come, gentlemen' said Kummer, 'it can't be both. It must be one or the other.' " Paul Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, (London: Fourth Estate, 1998), p. 192-193 cited by Karl Sabbagh, The Riemann Hypothesis, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), p. 117

I did not change the post for an important reason. I wanted to examine the psychology of global warming hysteriacs. There are several approaches one can take in life to contradictory data. One can try to discount the messenger, one can try to discount the data, or one can explain why the data doesn't mean what he thinks it does. I want to examine the general reaction to any error made by a skeptic.

I have noticed on the blogs, that some global warming skeptic makes a mistake on some thing or another, and the global warming advocates will hoot holler and act as if that single mistake invalidates everything that the skeptic says. That is discounting the messenger. The logic behind it is as follows. Glenn made a math mistake, therefore everything Glenn says about permafrost being melted 8000 years ago, about the seas being higher 8000 years ago, is false. This of course is a nonsequitur. One can be wrong on one issue and right on many others. So, such logic is flawed. Is Dave doing that? I don't know. I do know that he isn't actually responding to the data I have presented for trees further north, for higher seas, for melted alpine glaciers all having been the state of affairs 5000 years ago.

Dave does seem to think that I should be less cocksure of myself. I suspect that Dave thinks the finding of a math error is going to shame me into crawling into that cyber-cave where failed and embarassed bloggers go. But I would ask why should I be less sure of myself in the data I have presented on this blog just because Dave found a math error? Lets look at the logic here.

The logic seems to be: Dave found a math error in what Glenn wrote on a particular post, therefore the trees didn't live further north 5000 years ago, therefore the seas were not higher 5000 years ago, therefore the Holocene was not warmer than today, therefore the permafrost was not melted back then. The problem is that none of those conclusions seem to come from the assumption that Glenn made a math error. That data stands and that is why I am still cocksure of myself that the global warming hysteria is just hysteria Dave and other hysteriacs are ignoring the fact that all the evils they think are coming upon the world have already been experienced 5000-8000 years ago. They would rather discuss anything other than that data.

I make my living by finding oil. I talk rich people into investing in oil wells. They are hoping to get richer. Unfortunately, oil exploration is like being a major league batter. If you are right 33% of the time, you are very very good at oil finding. Most explorationists don't find oil at that rate. I have been wrong about 66% of the time in my career, so being wrong is not a new thing to me. Being wrong on 66% of my prospects (places where I think oil is found) does not negate the fact that I have been involved in finding just about a billion barrels of oil. If an investor stayed with me for a long enough time, I made them much richer. I once drilled a string of 9 dry holes in a row (my longest bad streak), but the tenth well found enough oil to pay for all the previous 9 dry holes plus. I was correct enough to make my investors rich, assuming the investors stayed through the bad times. Similarly, being wrong on the rate of fall on the Tuvalu tide does not negate the rest of the data. Mentally what I was doing was subtracting 66 hundred from 71 hundred, and thinking in terms of 71 and 66 meters resulting in a wrong obviously wrong answer. Mental block. It was an error which arrived at a fall of 5 meters (the chart on that page is in millimeters). But hey, I am wrong. Does that mean the seas were not higher 5000 years ago as found in numerous studies by people other than me, the erroneous one, the one who must wear the scarlet M for 'MISTAKEN'?

Now, why do zealots like to find error in their opponents? It is for the purpose of not having to deal with the rest of the data. Finding an error allows one to pull a huge bait and switch game. The zealot gets to discuss the error rather than the fundamental issue. I saw on Realclimate.org a few weeks back that Anthony Watts was purported not to understand something the writer thought was fundamental. The writer of that particular comment was railing about how bad Anthony Watts was and that seemed to allow him to ignore the main piece of data that Anthony Watts has brought to everyone's attention--thermometers are sited next to airconditioners, on top of hot cement and next to other heat sources. Watts critic, who may have been right about his criticism, was not dealing with the real issue--what is a thermometer doing next to an airconditioner? That writer found his reason to ignore the fundamental issue. That is a clear sign of zealotry, not science.

Another example. John says there is a mouse in the house. Sally looks as says he is wrong, there isn't a mouse in the house, ignoring the rat sitting on the couch. Just because someone called a rat a mouse, doesn't negate the fact that that a rodent, the real issue, is sitting on the couch.

Now, to my critic Dave. I would ask you Dave, to explain why we should worry about global warming when the earth 5000 years ago was warmer then than it is now. That is the real issue. that is the rat sitting on the couch amidst a math error. Explain why the studies I have cited are all flawed or acknowledge that what you fear in global warming has already been experienced in human history.

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