Over at CA, The One is making comparisons between the CRU hack and Enron. Analogies are interesting things. I kinda think of this when I think of denialists and contrarians and their followers…
I guess BRE-X isn’t enough innuendo for McIntyre when it comes to climate science — he has to go for Enron — perhaps the biggest corporate and political scandal in recent history.
There’s this really interesting thing I’ve noticed over at CA — a tendency to passive-aggressive posts where Mci writes X and then qualifies it so that it doesn’t appear like X, but maybe only kinda like X so that no one can claim he actually wrote X. Meanwhile, his blog readers and aficionados understand quite well the nudge and wink they’ve been given to assume X and so they do. X spreads like a fungal growth that affects the brains of the unsuspecting…
But it’s not always wise to make such analogies because “all too often, one gets drawn into debates about the analogy that are just as complex as the original issue. Or debates about the validity of the analogy.”
I didn’t really compare the claims at CA to zombie fungal growth, oh noes! That would be a bridge too far!
Nonetheless, the way denialist claims about climate scientists spread is like, you know, like the spores of a zombie fungus that infects the brains of its hapless victims, controlling their behavior so that they climb to the top of the leaf and a new fungal stalk sprouts out of their brains and release spores to set up a new growth somewhere distant…
Here’s the example that got me thinking:
There was an extremely interesting blog post a few days ago by Rob Bradley, an old friend of North from Enron days – where North had been Bradley’s climate consultant – in which Bradley asked North very pointed questions in which he compared the present behavior of climate scientists to Climategate to their shared experience (as innocent parties not in the know) through the gradual revelation of Enron problems. Bradley:
He then goes on to quote at length from Bradley, in which Bradley makes a clear comparison between Enron and the CRU hack — or “Climategate”.
But then the Great Puzzler posts this:
Analogies are always treacherous, because, all too often, one gets drawn into debates about the analogy that are just as complex as the original issue. Or debates about the validity of the analogy. So one needs to take care in trying to go a bridge too far in this sort of comparison.
Nonetheless, as it happens, in the early days of Climate Audit, I posted on both Bre-X and Enron. Here are some relevant posts on Enron: [my emphasis]
He lists a number of posts where he makes the direct comparison between Bre-X and the MBH temperature reconstruction.Now he’s added Enron to the list.
He loves to cite himself! I guess if you’ve forgone real scientific publishing and research in favor of blog science and keeping the tip jar filled, you have to cite yourself. But I digress…
The comparison with Enron may also be helpful in placing Climategate into context. Obviously, corruption at Enron did not prove that all business enterprises were corrupt. Conversely, no defence lawyer for Ken Lay or Jeffrey Skillings or Andrew Fastow would have stood before a court and argued that, because no one had showed that all business enterprises were corrupt, corruption at Enron didn’t “matter”. It did matter. Honest businessmen did not discourage an investigation of Enron or try to sweep it under the carpet. The best way to restore confidence in the rest of the system was to do a proper investigation of Enron.
He’s implying that Mann and “the team” are corrupt. He’s tempering this by adding that not all climate scientists are corrupt. Isn’t that what he’s implying?
Hogwash. Hog. Wash.
There is no evidence that Mann or anyone who worked with him is corrupt or committed fraud.
I really don’t know what to think about this — it’s a story that borders on obsession. It’s been over 11 years since the MBH98 was published and a decade since the SAR and yet McIntyre is still obsessing, either for personal or strategic reasons — I haven’t decided which one it is yet.
I think that there is a useful analogy here. Defects in proxy reconstructions do not prove the non-existence of AGW just as corruption at Enron doesn’t prove that all businesses are corrupt. But the fact that some lines of scientific argument are unaffected by CRU conduct or misconduct doesn’t mean that potential misconduct by CRU and others doesn’t “matter”. It does. The difficulty of the “community” in understanding this does not reassure the public – that’s for sure.
What McIntyre doesn’t understand — or choses not to acknowlegde — is that the so-called defect in the hockey stick is the past, man. It’s history. Everyone else has moved on and the original findings of the research stand. There was nothing in the CRU emails that rises to the level of fraud. A number of reputable organizations have come to that conclusion. Only the contrarians and denialists cling to it like some litany against evil.
Of course that’s entirely understandable — if you want to sway public opinion, you have to reach the public, and you have to convince them of the validity of your point of view. The public doesn’t understand the science or the stats — they do understand motives and the petty psychodramas they watch on the soaps and on reality TV. They do understand smears and innuendo about character.
As the tobacco wars have shown, if you can’t defeat the science, you just raise enough doubt in the minds of the public so that the politicians are afraid to act.
Not that I’d ever claim that is what CA is all about. No.
What makes me laugh as usual is his chorus:
Here’s an interesting one:
I am with Steve on Analogies being dangerous to use. And I will be the first to admmit I know almost nothing about the Enron scandal (other than the headlines). But the article does make a good analogy that even I understand, even if I have no reference to check on the facts of Enron.
Thanks for making it easy to understand for a layman.
Here’s a person who admits he knows nothing about Enron except what he’s read from headlines and who trusts Steve McIntyre to make the connections clear for the layman. Here is a person who swallows McI’s take without questioning if McIntyre’s qualified to make such a connection or whether he has a valid take on Enron. It’s just mindlessness, which seems to characterize many accolytes at CA.
I think there’s a good case to argue that Enron revealed a greater rot at the heart of the corporate – political nexus that goes beyond a few bad apples in one corporation.
Which also makes me think about fungus and ant brains…
The only real value in that thread is when Tom P shows up to debate Loehle on the issue of the validity of the hockey stick and Yamal data. Of course, McI shows up to stop Tom P from “arguing Yamal” but note he doesn’t stop people from making the claim that the hockey stick is evidence of some kind of fraud.
Here’s the exchange:
An excellent analogy. In the Enron case it is not a defence that the employees are good people or that it was a well-run company or that they were the smartest men in the room. They failed because 1) they had nonperforming assets and 2) they hid this fact. The hockey stick is a nonperforming asset. This fact has been hidden with tricks and multiple-publishing of the same data to make it look like independent support and not reporting goodness of fit statistics (etc). The long dissection of this tricky business, as Curry noted today elsewhere, prepared thousands of people to be ready to understand the climategate emails precisely.
The first thing to note is that Loehle points out X just as we expect McI’s followers will. Note also the multiple use of the term “trick”. There is a direct comparison to Enron and the implications are clear — Enron was financial fraud and Mann et al is academic fraud.
Tom P protests and Steve is having none of it:
“The hockey stick is a nonperforming asset. This fact has been hidden with tricks and multiple-publishing of the same data to make it look like independent support and not reporting goodness of fit statistics (etc).”
Ironically, it was Steve who did not report the goodness-of-fit statistics of his “Scheingruber variation” to the Yamal proxy when attempting to show this hockeystick was not robust. In fact Steve’s substitution has a considerably lower correlation, 0.38, compared to Yamal’s value of 0.57. 0.38 is below the previously published threshold for acceptance.
No analogy is perfect, but on this point it is precisely the wrong way round.
steve: Tom P, you should really understand a little statistics before pontificating as though you were Gavin’s Guru. I did not submit the Schweingruber variation as analternative reconstruction of temperature. I have consistently rejected the idea of picking proxies on ex post correlation – a point discussed on many occasions. Your idea – that some Yamal larch are magic thermometers because of ex post correlations while others aren’t – is Monty Pythonesque, though they limit their primer to how to recognize the larch from a long way away, but omitted a discussion of how to recognize magic larch from a long way away. This is taught in fourth year at the University of East Anglia, the University of East Anglia’s courses being specifically referred to in another Monty Python episode.
BillyBob responds, claiming that Yamal is the same thing as salting the mines with gold in the Bre-x scandal. You see, McI only need point the way and his readers follow:
I think Tom P, you are searching for the term “salting”.
A small amount of gold salted in a small area yeilds great results for speculators in the same a way a small amount of proxy warming (up to about 1960) in one or two trees in a small area like Yamal has resulted in a “gold rush” of billions of dollars in AGW business.
For me, the most interesting part of the post is Tom P’s response, showing the following graph:
This graph shows the Yamal chronologies with the fastest and slowest growth trees removed when compared to the full archive. Looks to me as if their removal has very little impact on the overall chronology.
He also raises the issue of Steve McIntyre’s selective analysis:
“In my posts about Enron, I discussed their “trick” – in order to avoid reporting business losses, losses which would have punctured the mirage and prevented them from raising fresh money to keep the scheme alive.”
You used your substitute chronology to undermine the robustness of the Briffa’s Yamal result while failing to disclose the low correlation of your substitute with the instrumental record, even after I specifically requested it.
When did you know that the correlation was that low, and why did you not feel a need to share this?
At that point, Steve brings the hammer down.
steve: Tom P, Yamal is offtopic on this thread. I repeat what i said before –
you should really understand a little statistics before pontificating as though you were Gavin’s Guru. I did not submit the Schweingruber variation as analternative reconstruction of temperature. I have consistently rejected the idea of picking proxies on ex post correlation – a point discussed on many occasions. Your idea – that some Yamal larch are magic thermometers because of ex post correlations while others aren’t – is Monty Pythonesque, though they limit their primer to how to recognize the larch from a long way away, but omitted a discussion of how to recognize magic larch from a long way away. This is taught in fourth year at the University of East Anglia, the University of East Anglia’s courses being specifically referred to in another Monty Python episode.
You can read more about this over at RealClimate where Yamal is discussed by Tom P himself. You can also go to Deep Climate who discussed it or Delayed Oscillator.