Saturday, July 14, 2007

More Discredited Documentary Links than You Can Possibly Stomach

Via the Oz Politics Blog Feed, and other sources, here's a quick round up of the responses from bloggers who're having a bit of trouble with getting their heads around the idea that Martin Durkin's mockumentary The Great Global Warming Swindle was just that - a swindle:

At The Daily Telegraph, Tim Blair reminds us that it's not just cold today in Wagga-Wagga, it's been a cold month across the whole of Australia:
Not that June should be presented as evidence that global warming isn't happening, or that we're causing it. Relying on such a tiny sample would be unscientific and wrong, even if it involves an entire freakin' continent's weather patterns throughout the course of a whole month, for Christ's sake.

No such foolishness will be indulged in here.

Sadly, those who believe in global warming - and who would compel us also to believe - aren't similarly constrained...
The rest of the column, predictably, is exactly the sort of foolishness Tim says he'll avoid.

Pommygranate is incensed that the ABC put so much effort into subverting Durkin's documentary and goes the out-of-context quote to suggest that his displeasure is shared by Carl Wunsch, the scientist who accused Durkin of misrepresenting his opinion:
He was furious with the ABC's decision to run the program, saying

"Anybody who tells you they know what is going to happen 20 years from now, 100 years from now, is not a good scientist. The science can only say, at this stage, that there are certain possibilities that we are aware of."

Well, err, quite, Carl. But isn't this the precise point the program was making?
Here's what Wunsch actually said, according to the ABC:
"Anybody who tells you they know what is going to happen 20 years from now, 100 years from now, is not a good scientist," he said.

"The science can only say, at this stage, that there are certain possibilities that we are aware of."

"They are possibilities that we think society should take very seriously and try and decide how it is going to deal with them if they come out."

Mr Wunsch has also criticised media organisations including the ABC for broadcasting the documentary.

"TV companies around the world are treating it as though it were a science documentary. It's not," he said.

"It's a contentious political propaganda piece, it's not a science film at all, it's a political statement."
(emphasis added)
Finally, Steven Lloyd is angry that Tony Jones dared to challenge Durkin's claim that it's the sun stupid:
Tony Jones spent a lot of time hammering the filmmaker over leaving out the last 20 years on what was otherwise a compelling graph correlating global temperatures with solar activity. The 20 years left off of the graph, diverged completely, making it look bad for the filmmaker that he left it off.

The thing is, even with the last 20 years added in, the graph was still compelling. You don’t disregard the first 80% of a graph which correlates to a high percentage, just because the last 20% didn’t. Tony Jones would have us think exactly that.
No, Kevin - in science, when you find new data that doesn't fit your theory (or in this case Dorkin's belief) you don't ignore the new data - you look for a better theory. At least that's the kind of science they were teaching when I went through secondary school and university - if there's another kind of science where you throw away awkward data, I haven't heard of it. Unless it's economics, maybe.

The solar activity theory doesn't fit the new data - it's a dead theory. It is no more. It has ceased to be.

Well, that's enough of that - I've wasted enough time on irrelevancies for today. And in the long run, the opinions of Tim Blair, PommyGranate and Steven Lloyd aren't going to have any influence. The way things are looking they'll all be voting "1 - Loser" at the coming election.

It's about time John Howard read the writing on the wall and made that visit to the Governor-General, don't you think? Sure, he'd go down in history as the Prime Minister who led the Liberal Party into oblivion but, as a Burkean Conservative, you'd expect him to look to the interests of the nation and exercise his sovereign conscience accordingly.

Update: in the most ineffectual response to date, Diogenes Lamp fisks today's Age Letters and reminds us that global warming is also currently occuring on Mars and other planets. This also gives him the opportunity for a completely gratuitous demonstration that he's not afraid to be politically incorrect.


pommygranate said...

I think 'incensed' is a little strong, Gummo.

'The editors, made a brave choice, sensibly covered their backs'

Gummo Trotsky said...

"Fumigated" perhaps?

Reading your post over, I detect a distinct whiff of anger in your enumeration of five ways in which the ABC editors hedged themselves. But maybe I'm just having another grumpy morning.

Sir Henry said...

Someone from the lunar right in the audience referred to the young prof David Karoly as "that garrulous individual in the middle".

I got a whiff of the steveatthepub from that. It's the intellectual discussion by way of let's step outside and sort out this global warming once and for all, man to man.

pommygranate said...

no anger at all. i was delighted that ABC had the guts to show the program and thought Jones did an excellent job pointing out Durkin's many faults in his documentary.

I only wish all political doc makers could be exposed to the same thorough analysis.

Stephen Lloyd said...

Only just saw that you linked to me, oh well. you misspelled my name, but I forgive you. ;)

My point was that when doing statistical analysis for positive, negative or no correlation between two data sets, you don't disregard the first peice of the data, any more than you disregard the new data.

Your argument is just as fallacious - you say you can't disregard the new data, but you yourself disregard the old data.

The old data is not bad data, in the way that modern germ theory is newer and better than 'god made us sick because we sinned'; in this case the old data was simply recorded before the new data, but the two use the same technology and observation standards, only when they were recorded is different - it is a time-series analysis.

Gummo Trotsky said...


Now you're just parroting Durkin.

If you can't answer my point - that Durkin's graph conveniently omitted new data that didn't support his case - without misrepresenting it as a failure in my understanding of science, you're wasting your time.

If all you can come up with is ad hominem arguments and cock-eyed analogies, you've got nothing.

Incidentally, germ theory isn't all that modern - it's mid to late nineteenth century. Our understanding of infectious diseases and the organisms that cause them has come a long way since then. Only advertising copywriters talk about "germs".

Stephen Lloyd said...

I agree he left the data out that didn't back his point, but that doesn't make the overall graph, even with the new data included uncompelling. It only undermines his character, not the graph. You want to use his character to undermine the data, which is itself bad science.

My point is that even if you include the new data, where the lines diverge, the graph would still have a positive correlation, just to a lower percentage.

And germ theory is modern compared to sickness itself and its previous explanations, so quit splitting hairs.