10 May 2010

Peter Gleick Fires Back

[UPDATE: In an interesting comment and discussion, Lucia continues her conversation with Peter Gleick here.]

In the comments Peter Gleick, lead author of the sign-on letter in Science takes aim at Randy Olson and me for our criticisms of the use of the photoshopped polar bear image that Science magazine originally used to accompany the letter. Presumably the following comment is directed at Randy Olson:
Oh, and what do you know? Science has replaced the photoshopped image of the polar bear on an ice floe, with what? A real picture of a polar bear on an ice floe.

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5979/689.

So NOW, I guess since the photo is right, the science must be right?

You say this is why image matters? This is why the ART does NOT matter.
He has some strong words for me in another comment:
Roger, sometimes you offer good, thoughtful pieces here. Not this time -- this one is outrageously off the mark: indeed, a cheap and misdirected shot. Of course scientist must try to get the facts as right as possible, and be willing to acknowledge and admit mistakes. And of course the photoshopped photo is a metaphor for the problem.

But you (and many in the denial community -- a perfectly proper term, despite their complaining about it) are conflating my dismissal of the selection of bad ART, with my dismissal of those who would rather talk about ART as metaphor than science as fact.

And we (the scientists) didn't "fudge the facts" -- how dare you? That's precisely the subterfuge and misdirection used by climate deniers. We had NO role in selection of the photo, and frankly, its a triviality anyway. A fine metaphor and opportunity for a cheap shot, but a triviality.

You say I shouldn't shoot the messenger? That's what you're doing to the signers of the letter. How about posting something on the SUBSTANCE of the letter?
In response, I think Gleick protests too much. I never accused him or his collaborators of "fudging the facts." Here is what I wrote in context:
The general lesson here should be that no matter the virtues of the "cause" it does not justify cutting corners or fudging the facts. When errors are found, the proper response is not to shoot the messenger or ask people to ignore mistakes in the context of larger truths, but rather, to just get things right.
It was clearly Science that "fudged the facts" and I said as much, which is why it is a "general lesson." And I did post something on the substance of the letter (to which Gleick responded) well before the polar bear flap erupted.

Sorry Peter, Randy Olson is right when he writes,
. . . it matters if you publish a letter of outrage, complaining about being smeared as dishonest, and yet your article is accompanied by a photograph that is tainted by the word “Photoshop” which virtually EVERYONE in today’s society knows symbolizes one big thing — WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH.
Remember, you are protesting that "the ART does NOT matter" to someone whose peer reviewed research has been ignored, downplayed and misrepresented by the mainstream climate science community, presumably in service to the greater good. Where were you when that happened? Getting things right matters, especially in Science, but really everywhere. You'll have a hard time convincing me otherwise.

66 comments:

  1. IPCC AR4 - Vol 1 - Faked cover shot (Come on who believes there are really two earths??) - Thus clearly a pack of lies

    Dire Predictions (Michael Mann) - Faked cover shot - pack of lies

    On the other hand:

    Great Global Warming Blunder (Roy Spencer) - Faked cover shot - Clearly a pack of lies

    The Chilling Stars (Svensmark) - Faked cover shot - Therefore a pack of lies

    Hot Talk, Cold Science (Fred Singer) - Faked cover shot - Therefore a pack of lies

    This is terrible! It seems like we are going to have to actually evaluate the quality of the arguments rather than dismissing an article, report or book based on the cover art (which the author often has little or no control over).

    Seriously I can't believe the letter is being critiqued based on the accompanying art, not even chosen by the authors.

    Truly bizarre

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  2. Inappropriate art can sure make you look dumb. As an example, what's wrong with the picture in this article?

    http://hplusmagazine.com/articles/toys-tools/graphene-next

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  3. -1-caveat emptor

    You have wandered deep into strawman territory. There has been no assertion by me on this blog that the letter can or should be dismissed due to the image. Rather, I take issue to the response by Gleick to the criticisms, as I wrote in my initial post: "he seems to suggest that those who point out inaccuracies are the problem, not those who commit the original errors."

    He has amplified this in his subsequent responses.

    Sorry, but the proper response is simple: "it was a mistake, sorry, we'll fix it." That is it.

    In other news, The Climate FIx also has a photoshopped cover, the Earth does not really sit at the bottom of a thermometer;-)

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/04/climate-fix.html

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  4. Forget the polar bear: pity the poor rhinoceros on whose head he's standing. The poor thing looks frozen stiff!

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  5. Roger, you're STILL off the mark. If I, or any of the scientists, had ANY role to play in picking or approving the photo, you could criticize us (though that would still be completely unrelated to the science itself). But as you've noted (but seem to keep forgetting), we didn't.

    Should Science have caught this? Of course. But as one of your commenters above points out, the art the accompanies lots of this stuff (including the science-less books from the deniers) usually also has photoshopped ART pictures as covers.

    Their books are bad science, but NOT because the covers are photoshopped. And no climate scientists criticized their books because of their COVER art...

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  6. Oh, and Peter, here's something on the substance of the letter. It's hyperbole to claim that AGW is a theory at the same level of standing as the Big Bang or evolution. As someone who's spent a great deal of time and effort arguing, with the conservative and the religious, on behalf of the latter two theories I find the comparison invidious. The magnitude of the indirect effects of CO2 on climate are still a matter of active debate, and if they happened to fall at, or below, the low end of the last IPCC estimates, we'd simply reassess the relative size of positive and negative feedbacks and move on There would be no earthshaking consequences for the rest of science. In contrast, for either the Big Bang or evolution to be falsified, we'd have to overturn much of the rest of science too.

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  7. -5-Peter

    I am not criticizing the other 254 authors at all.

    You write: "the ART does NOT matter."

    I disagree. I agree with Randy Olson who writes: ". . . it matters if you publish a letter of outrage, complaining about being smeared as dishonest, and yet your article is accompanied by a photograph that is tainted by the word “Photoshop” which virtually EVERYONE in today’s society knows symbolizes one big thing — WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH."

    It does not matter? It does matter?

    Which is it?

    I think it matters. In fact, I think that your statement that it does not matter is far more troubling than the fact that it was published in the first place.

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  8. "And we (the scientists) didn't fudge the facts""...Probably the most bizarre remark that could be made by this "scientist."

    Climate science is in the state it is because AGW-scientists have gone to extremes to habitually fudge the facts and everyone knows it. How dare he says otherwise. It as if most AGW-scientists have a personal vendetta against facts and truth.

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  9. The fact that "they" didn't choose the art is hardly comforting. The art was chosen by the single most important scientific journal in the United States, whose editorial staff has been corrupted by AGW ideology. How can we trust papers published in a publication that not only sinks this low, but is stupid enough to think they can get away with it?

    And to go beyond this petty incident, I recommend examining Steve McIntyre's experience with the editors at Science.

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  10. PG said... 5
    "Should Science have caught this? Of course. But as one of your commenters above points out, the art the accompanies lots of this stuff (including the science-less books from the deniers) usually also has photoshopped ART pictures as covers."

    Drowning Polar Bears is one of the least scientifically supportable claims made by 'Global Warming Advocates'.

    Polar bears know how to swim.

    'Global Warming Advocates' constantly reference the sanctity of the 'Peer reviewed' literature.

    So we have an issue of a 'peer reviewed literature' containing an article complaining about the tactics of various used by various skeptics.

    On it's cover is a picture of a polar bear that will surely be drown soon as a result of global warming.

    Whether or not it was photo-shopped is irrelevant. It references a meme that has a very weak scientific basis.

    They might as well have put a picture of the Himalaya's with the year 2035 stamped across it.

    It conveys the same message...
    Science - The Journal of Dubious Scientific Claims.

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  11. PG: You asked for input regarding the "substance of the letter." O.K., just how on earth can a real scientist make this statement?

    "Are the climate deniers going to go away? No. Nothing will convince them, since science hasn't."

    Say what?? Isn't it rather arrogant and smug for someone (or a group of "concerned scientists") to insist that he/she/them has the authority to define what is "the science" here? Is this saying that ALL those scientists that don't agree with ALL the IPCC conclusions are "deniers" who cannot be convinced by "the science?" What if I just don't believe in all the ice melting in the Himalayas during the next 30 years? Am I then a denier who cannot be convinced by "the science?" What a ridiculous overreaching, illogical, anti-scientific statement. I hope "climate science" is more tolerant than this!

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  12. The pinnacle of irony: "When errors are pointed out, they are corrected". Says who? Peter Gleick. Where? In the Science letter.

    If only he had practiced what he preached...an "Oops!" would have sufficed.

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  13. Roger, so you'll be redoing the cover of your book and issuing an apology?

    You insist on conflating symbols versus content.

    And of course, it was stupid of Science to miss the fact that the photo was photoshopped. I emailed them on Saturday to replace it. But by letting deniers focus on the art as a metaphor, you're letting them off the hook for the science, and you're letting them set the terms of the debate back to image rather than reality.

    Oh, and Harrywr... the polar bear isn't drowning; it isn't an "article" but a "letter."

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  14. So, Peter Gleick is upset that someone may draw negative inferences to a letter signed by 250 scientists where a fake, phony, fraudulent picture, appears above their signatures?

    Shocked, truly shocked, that it would undermine the credibility of those scientists that failed to object to such a lie.

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  15. If an emotionally charged but fake photograph has "nothing to do with the case", then why on earth did the editors put it in? Peter Gleick's protests are too clever by half. If the fake photo doesn't matter and adds nothing to the argument, a good scientist wouldn't have included it in the first place.

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  16. Now that they found a polar bear doing what polar bears do, the junk science and transparent appeals to authority and intimidation only look shabbier.
    We know that a lot of scientists who are not working in climate signed the letter.
    We know Ehrlich did sign it.
    We know that the letter lies about the science and about those who doubt AGW.
    The photos were never the problem. The junk letter is the problem.

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  17. "Oh, and what do you know? Science has replaced the photoshopped image of the polar bear on an ice floe, with what? A real picture of a polar bear on an ice floe."

    Who looks like he's having a blast. Maybe they should switch to the photoshopped flooded home.

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  18. Roger (7) -- ok, this is it on the head, this is where you go off the rails. NO: it does NOT matter that our letter was accompanied by a photoshopped photo of a polar bear on an ice floe. Thou dost protest too much and exactly the way climate change deniers try to shift attention from science to image. This is classic misdirection.

    The photo says NOTHING about the content of the letter. You already know (and have acknowledged) that the scientists didn't pick the photo or know of it in advance. You already know (and have acknowledged) that photoshopped images are used as art (indeed, you used it on your own book). You pander to the faulty logic of Randy Olson that this means we don't care about the truth -- a strawman so stupid that you should have rejected, not embraced it. You know that Science has already replaced that photo with another real one showing exactly the same thing: a polar bear on an ice floe.

    If a photoshopped photo made the arguments in the letter false, by your absurd logic, the new real photo should now make the arguments in the letter true.

    Sheesh.

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  19. -18-Peter

    Randy Olson did not say that you do not care about the truth. He did say that the use of a photoshopped image to accompany the article _gives the impression_ that you do not care about the truth. The point is that impressions matter, and in that context so do symbols.

    Think of this analogy -- remember Geogre W. Bush's "mission accomplished" speech? Do you remember the context of his speech or do you remember the fact that he gave it in front of a sign that said "mission accomplished"?

    Also, in the letter and in these comments you keep invoking the "climate change deniers" -- who are they? Can you name names? Who is it specifically that you are invoking here?

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  20. This whole debate is bewildering, and Roger, I don't understand why you've been sucked into it.

    A picture of a polar bear is only a signpost that the article it accompanies is about climate. It's a symbol.

    A sign for 'old people crossing', in the UK, portrays an old lady hunched over with a walking stick. It does not mean all old people look like that in profile when crossing a road.

    Bad analogy, but that's all the polar bear means here.

    I think the letter is terrible, uncertainty-denial, advocacy, alarmism, all the faults of the 'community' are there. And yet the polar bear has become the story.

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  21. Roger, you wrote:

    "he seems to suggest that those who point out inaccuracies are the problem, not those who commit the original errors."

    That's not how I read it. Gleick seems to suggest that those who use the imagery to direct attention away from the content are the problem. Which I agree with.

    However, I also agree with Olson and you that imagery is important for how the message is perceived by the public. That is too easily forgotten by scientists, and indeed, it is also a problem (for the effective communication of science).

    Bart

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  22. My, oh my, a fight over polar bear photographs. We now have the infamous collage (that's a fake to you and me) replaced by a Nat Geo photgraph of a real polar bear on real ice floe.

    However, there appears to be another polar bear collage on Nat Geo's own Climate Change site to advertise their Global Action Atlas.

    It seems that AGW advocates have bastardized their own poster child.

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  23. Harrywr2 (11)
    Your posting is outrageous and false. Especially your last sentence let's makes me suspect that you have actually never read the Science Magazine.

    As Roddy (20) puts it: "Bad analogy, but that's all the polar bear means here."

    In my estimation art does not matter at all. Picking on things like the cover is typical for climate change deniers.
    Nevertheless, Science should use different artwork.

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  24. Our/Bart.

    That's not how I read it. Gleick seems to suggest that those who use the imagery to direct attention away from the content are the problem. Which I agree with.
    Are you under the impression this is an either/or? Gleick has written more than one paragraph and manages to suggest more than one idea.

    Gleick does suggests what Roger says. You pointing out that Gliek also made another point doesn't magically erase the point Roger observes.

    As for your notion of what Gleick suggests: Gleick is wrong if he thinks others are wrong to discuss the faked-to-exaggerate the effect of climate change on existing polar bear habitat photo. Or, even if it's somehow "wrong", then it's "wrong" in the way one might suggest rain should not tend to fall "down" on earth. Gleick could tell rain it should fall "up" because falling "down" is "wrong", but rain is not going to pay attention to his stomping of his little boy feet and rain will continue to fall "down".

    As for the letter: while the letter has many faults, no one is required to discuss those rather than pointing out that the process at SCIENCE somehow results in them running fake images alongside the science letter or marvel at why it is that neither the lead author (P. Gleick) nor any of the 255 co-authors thought to look at the pdf and notice the obvious concoction and complain to Science or at their blogs before other readers noticed. All this could have been avoided if even one of them had thought to download their own article and check the final version as soon as it appeared.

    It's also a shame that Science doesn't incorporate the step of sending the authors galley proofs in pdf form prior to publication. Just think of all the trouble that would have been averted if Peter Gleick had been able to see the final document, notice the obviously faked photo and suggested they find a better one before the article was published. But I guess Science and possibly other lesser science journals have fallen out of the habit of sending final galley proofs to authors, right? Or maybe letting author's see the final version has never been part of the scientific process. Because if it hasn't, I'm sure members of the non-science public would like to learn more about this.

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  25. You're probably aware of California's economic difficulties. Especially hard hit are farming communities of the San Joaquin. There is a water crisis that has been fabricated by State Democrats in their never ending bid to control every aspect of our lives.

    Pete is one of their go to operatives on water issues. He pushes democratic tropes like banning bottled water, banning lawns, and installing water meters.

    Here is what he had to say about the drying up Valley farms.

    "Data from the California State Department of Finance shows that 1000 acre-feet of water used to grow cotton, rice, or alfalfa produces between 1 to 5 jobs; 1000 acre-feet of water used to grow vegetables in California produces 18 to 35 jobs; 1000 acre-feet of water used in office buildings produces 2500 jobs; 1000 acre-feet of water used to produce semiconductors supports 9000 jobs."

    Do you see what he did there? He compared farming to office work on a gallon by gallon basis, in order to sell the idea to his audience of Silicone Valley liberals, that it's a better use of Sac Valley water to send it straight on through to the ocean.
    I couldn't think of a more callous, deceitful use of statistics if I tried.

    This guy is a past master at using targeted imagery to sell BS.

    Like Maurizio Morabito, I think this vague and disjointed letter, signed by few if any actual climate scientists (and not very many regardless of discipline) is a publicity stunt to drum up interest in Pete's latest book, rather then any genuine appeal on behalf of alarmist science.

    All of it was planned, right on down to the photoshop polie bear, to drum up controversy.
    Noise sells books.

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  26. @lucia #24: "It's also a shame that Science doesn't incorporate the step of sending the authors galley proofs in pdf form prior to publication."

    I had a letter recently published in Science. The editors sent text for correction in Microsoft Word format, but not a pdf galley proof. For peer-reviewed research papers, PDF galleys are still standard at most journals, but for correspondence, journals seem to handle things differently.

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  27. My, oh my, a fight over polar bear photographs. We now have the infamous collage (that's a fake to you and me) replaced by a Nat Geo photgraph of a real polar bear on real ice floe.

    Comparison of the two highlights the deception involved in the photo-shopped version. The replacement photo doesn't show miles and miles and miles of water around the lonely polar bear. In the replacement photo, there is no reason to suspect the polar bear could not jump off the floe and swim to some other ice within his line of sight. For all we know, he could make it to land.

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  28. Johannes @ 23

    "In my estimation art does not matter at all. Picking on things like the cover is typical for climate change deniers.
    Nevertheless, Science should use different artwork."

    so that makes you a climate change denier? Your statements seem undermine each other.

    Is criticism of the picture valid, or is it not? I don't mean to pick on your post but it a nice distillation of the response to criticism.

    At the very least it must be acknowledged that stealth advocacy by this "peer reviewed" journal becomes a distraction from the letter.

    like it our not the skeptic is presented with a clear case of stealth advocacy by Science and is left to wonder where the advocacy ends and the science begins.

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  29. Lucia, Science did NOT send galleys to us. But even if they had, I have no idea if I would have known the photo was modified. And this whole discussion is a complete straw man and a diversion.

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  30. Poor persecuted Peter Gleick evidently doesn't understand that when he freely insults AGW skeptics, calling them "deniers" and likening their behavior to that of Nazis, Communists and the Taliban, he doesn't win the Miss Manners Prize for Civility. So he's hardly in a position to whine about ad hominems. If PG can't take it, he shouldn't dish it out.

    Maybe one of PG's more emotionally mature peers, such as Judith Curry, can explain this to him.

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  31. "Also, in the letter and in these comments you keep invoking the "climate change deniers" -- who are they? Can you name names? Who is it specifically that you are invoking here?"

    Yes, I'd like to second Roger's request. For example, are any of these people "climate change deniers":

    Patrick Michaels
    Richard Lindzen
    Bjorn Lomborg
    Stephen McIntyre
    John Christy
    Roy Spencer

    ???

    If any of these men (or other people) are "climate change deniers," what position do they have that earns them that label?

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  32. What concerns me is the numerous false claims in the letter by Peter Gleick and the others, from the very first sentence.
    "We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular"
    False, the most of the criticisms of climate science are based on the science and have nothing to do with politics.
    "There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend."
    Completely false - the evidence is flaky and subjective and has been widely exaggerated and distorted.
    "When errors are pointed out, they are corrected".
    Again, completely false. Numerous IPCC errors remain uncorrected despite being pointed out, including (a) the disaster losses error that Roger has discussed, (b) the false claim about 40% of the Amazon forest disappearing, (c) the errors in WGIII pointed out here by Richard Tol, (d) the false claim about no trend in Antarctic sea ice, (e) the error in the cloud feedback factor in fig SPM2 and elsewhere (an average was simply computed wrongly) (f) false statements about tropical cyclones, over which Landsea resigned, (g) the false statement about warming since the TAR.

    In the context of the exaggeration and scaremongering of this letter and much of climate science, the faked photograph seems ironically appropriate.

    Then there is the hypocrisy of complaining about being attacked, while referring to anyone who doesn't agree as a 'denier'.

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  33. PG @ 29

    "And this whole discussion is a complete straw man and a diversion."

    a diversion from what? The letter? IMO the letter is the equal of that fake image.

    -You compare yourself to Einstein and Gallileo.
    -You state working hypotheses as "fundamental conclusions" (maybe I misunderstand this term"
    -You demonize your McCarthy-ite denier opposition.

    the letter is a piece of insubstantial rhetoric every bit the match of an image of a polar bear stranded on an iceflow.

    I have changed my stance on this whole thing now that I have read the letter. I applaud the editors of Science for their subtle insight and editorial panache.

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  34. Poor PG just does not get it.
    He wishes the photo was the only problem with his letter.
    The problem of the letter is that it reflects the beliefs of the author, and it is clear the author is just repeating derivative, untrue jingoistic pap and trying to sell it as something substantial.
    Each and ever assertion of the letter is either a cheap ad hom or simply a misrepresentation of the science or else a confusion of oopinion with fact.
    Good luck, Dr.

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  35. papertiger posts what is in effect a direct assault on someone's credibility and it draws not a single salvo in return fire? I believe there's a need for someone to post "You sunk my battleship!"

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  36. Lucia:

    Science certainly sends out galley proofs for regular papers. Whether they send them for letters I have no idea.

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  37. WHY THEN, THIS??

    Climate Change and the Integrity of Science
    P. H. Gleick et al.

    Correction
    Due to an editorial error, the original image associated with this Letter was not a photograph but a collage. The image was selected by the editors, and it was a mistake to have used it. The original image has been replaced in the online HTML and PDF versions of the article with an unaltered photograph from National Geographic.

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  38. PG,
    You have to be lauded for wading to skeptical waters. I do hope you will stay on, because then we can actually discuss the content of the letter itself, instead of the fake polar bear you guys distracted us with

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  39. From the letter:

    "Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence."

    The repeated use by author Peter Gleick of the pejorative term “denier” in this thread is consistent with one message of the letter: the only views with scientific credibility are those within the bounds of an ill-defined but narrow Consensus.

    Watch out! Anyone who strays past them is driven by a hostility towards Science.

    Few of us--lay people or scientists--can run computer code ourselves, or evaluate the details of complex statistical analyses. Much rests on the answer to "Who should I trust?"

    It would seem that a respectful tone and an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of at least some ex-Consensus dissent would have been a good starting place. Apparently not.

    AGW Consensus scientists repeatedly make choices that telegraph, "not trustworthy." This letter is just the latest example.

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  40. Just to be 100% clear...it is hard to second-guess anybody. But it is not hard to understand that _everything_ about a letter on "integrity" has to be entirely appropriate...or else, the letter disqualifies itself.

    Therefore, it would have been far far better had a different person been the main signatory, than a guy with a book published a couple of days before.

    In the age of blogs, twitter, google and personal branding, it is disingenuous to pretend the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

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  41. PG--
    Lucia, Science did NOT send galleys to us. But even if they had, I have no idea if I would have known the photo was modified. And this whole discussion is a complete straw man and a diversion.
    Diversion from what? Your talking points?

    Well, here is more diversion: Your apparent efforts to excuse yourself from responsibility for the mess and shift it onto the mysterious climate denial machine (whose members cannot be identified) or the poor editors at science puts you and scientists you represent n a miserable light.

    Here's why:

    You were the lead author on a letter co-authored by 255 others. Evidently, you shopped around for publishers a number of whome refused to publish the mostly boring barely newsworthy letter (see NYT blog). Finally, you magazine who found it met their standards and agreed to publish it. That magazine was SCIENCE.

    Though, as lead author on a letter clearly intended to be disseminated to the widest possible audience and sway, you should have made yourself aware of the publication practices of the periodical that accepted your letter and known the stages of review permitted. Instead, you suggest you are not to blame for not detecting the image in the pdf for various and sundry reasons.

    When someone at my blog similarly suggested you should be excused because somehow the utterly unrealistic photo showing miles and miles of ocean around a single stranded polar bear was not obviously fake, I responded:


    But even if it’s not obvious, I think to avoid doing something stupid the lead author of a letter to SCIENCE should:
    1) Look at the final version as soon as he possibly can.
    2) Notice insertions — like the photo.
    3) Check the provenance of the photo and
    4) If there is a problem that will embarrass him or subvert the message of his letter, write Science and alert them.

    Presumably, Gleick was not hit by a bus on Friday and should have been able to do this. He did not. His not doing so was just as “stupid” (to use his word) Science’s decision to insert material into letters to the editor without requesting review by the authors. (Yes. I know you told me this is just following Science’s own stated policy. That means their policy is stupid.)



    If you think merely not being sent galleys excuses you from blame, you are simply wrong. If you think your lack of knowledge about polar bears excuses your not detecting the obvious forgery, you are wrong. If you wish to suggest that you, as lead author, did not have the responsibility of being pro-active and taking steps to make sure that editors at SCIENCE did not subvert your message, in my opinion, you are wrong.

    As for your resorting to the "diversion" rhetoric: you should be aware that people other than you get to decide what they think is important. If you wish your future letter writing campaigns to result in positive public relations, I suggest you

    a) write a letter that would not result in widespread yawning by readers, and
    b) expend the effort to check the final copy and make sure SCIENCE doesn't do something you will later characterize as "stupid".

    If you apply the empirical method, you will discover that whining that people won't focus on the talking point you hoped would spring from your failed PR campaign and calling their conversations "diversions" is not going to cause anyone to decide that you are the arbitor of all that may be discussed in newspapers, blogs, forums or television.

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  42. I'm puzzled by the level of heat and hyperbole here. Yes, there's a problem with the photoshopped image, but the magnitude that commenters on this thread ascribe to the problem and the emotional heat that accompanies the discussion seems totally disproportionate.

    It may be very statisfying to sieze on a perceived inconsistency or error by someone with whom one disagrees and holler, "Gotcha!" but it's rarely a good way to start a substantive dialog or convince one's opponents to reflect on the criticism deeply enough to win them over.

    Thus, I am surprised that so many self-annointed experts in public relations in this comments thread are attempting to make their case to Gleick and others in such off-putting terms.

    For all their flaws, the IPCC reports and even "An Inconvenient Truth" have been remarkably successful in communicating to the public and winning credibility and continue to have much more influence than contrarian scientific reports or Randy Olson's "Sizzled."

    Perhaps the folks predicting gloom and doom for the credibility of the mainstream climate-science community are guilty of the same kind of overconfidence in their predictive powers and overemphasis on worst-case scenarios in their analysis of public opinion as they accuse climate scientists of being with their projections and predictions of climate futures.

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  43. Yes, there's a problem with the photoshopped image, but the magnitude that commenters on this thread ascribe to the problem and the emotional heat that accompanies the discussion seems totally disproportionate.
    I'm a bit confused by your post. I'm seeing emotion in Gleicks posts and his diagnosis of that as evidence of some sort of climate conspiracy as disproportionate.

    Because i'm not seeing much emotion in other people rebutting Gleick's points or volunteering their views on the poor quality of the letter in response to Gleick's complaints that discussion of the image was detracting focus from discussion of the letter itself.

    It's true that Gleick's emotional reaction to criticism was not a good way to foster communication. Still, given the balance of your comment, I want to ask: When you say you are surprised by the emotion-- do you mean Gleick's emotional response? Or someone elses.

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  44. Jonathan,

    I think you will see in many of these posts that it is not just the picture that is a problem; it is the letter. In fact, the picture and the fact that it is a composite, is ironically appropriate given the content of the letter (as pointed out by a previous commenter). It is wise to address everyone with due respect, but mainstream climate science has nothing more than a very rough correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature with very large confidence intervals. They link this to the well-established property of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and conclude that correlation equals cause and effect. Many of the "deniers" simply cannot agree that this represents "settled science". At some point attempts to constructively address this issue with mainstream climate scientists devolves into an appeal to authority and accusations that "deniers" are anti-science. I am a biomedical scientist, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt, but after considerable reading, I have not found any direct evidence demonstrating conclusively that the amount of warming in the last 40 years was produced by the increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. In fact, the lack of warming in the last 10-15 years suggests that correlation does not equate to cause and effect in this case.

    The claim that recent warming is unprecedented is disputable, and even mainstream climate scientists have admitted that there simply is not enough evidence to determine if previous warm periods were warmer than present on a global scale. Sorry, but in most fields of research this type of evidence would not be regarded as "settled science". I believe there is general agreement that drastic climate changes in the past, including emergence from ice ages to warm periods, were not caused by carbon dioxide. How can we possibly be sure that this is the major cause of change now?

    Unfortunately, most mainstream climate scientists simply have too much invested in AGW to step back and admit that their conclusions are little more than opinions.

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  45. @lucia, #43. Emotion: I mean the hostile response to Gleick that pervades the comments responding to this and the other Gleick post.

    To my ears, this, from yours of #41, sounds emotional: "If you think merely not being sent galleys excuses you from blame, you are simply wrong. If you think your lack of knowledge about polar bears excuses your not detecting the obvious forgery, you are wrong. If you wish to suggest that you, as lead author, did not have the responsibility of being pro-active and taking steps to make sure that editors at SCIENCE did not subvert your message, in my opinion, you are wrong." In part this is because in over 20 years as a practicing scientist I have never felt, nor perceived my peers to feel, that we must approach scholarly journals with the level of paranoia that you urge on Gleick. Your suggestion is simply bizarre, and can only interpret your rhetorical excess as driven by emotion.

    Even more emotion: Frontiers (#16) accusing Gleick of intimidation; #25 accusing him of being supremely "callous" and "deceitful" in "fabricat[ing]" a water crisis; Bradley Fikes (#31) alleging without evidence that Gleick compares those who disagree with him to "Nazis, Communists, and the Taliban" (I am not aware of anywhere that Dr. Gleick made such comparisons).

    Do you seriously propose that these are examples of cool, reasoned discourse? To my ears, they are all overheated and #25 and #31 especially are outright uncivil and can't possibly promote sensible discourse. #25 is a delusional conspiracy fantasy. There is no secret conspiracy of Democrats and scientists to control every aspect of people's lives.

    If we accept the central role of ancillary material in affecting the credibility of the main text, we might ask whether Prof. Pielke's choice to publish such strange comments to appear on his blog hurts his own credibility in reasonable people's eyes more than the polar bear hurts Dr. Gleick's.

    Me? I think that the weird comments and the polar bear are quite secondary in most people's eyes; that the weird comments don't much affect most people's esteem for Prof. Pielke, nor the polar bear their esteem for Dr. Gleick. You clearly differ, but this leads me back to my question why so many folks participating in these comments don't follow the precepts they so enthusiastically recommend to Dr. Gleick.

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  46. @lucia, #41:

    "If you think merely not being sent galleys excuses you from blame, you are simply wrong. If you think your lack of knowledge about polar bears excuses your not detecting the obvious forgery, you are wrong. If you wish to suggest that you, as lead author, did not have the responsibility of being pro-active and taking steps to make sure that editors at SCIENCE did not subvert your message, in my opinion, you are wrong."

    When one writes a letter to the editor of a major newspaper, the editors of the paper regularly edit the letter for length and add a headline of their own choosing and sometimes an illustration to boot without consulting the correspondent.

    Gleick's letter to science is in the category of a "letter to the editor," not a peer-reviewed article. One would not castigate someone for writing letters to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times and failing to demand galley proofs and carefully inspecting the artwork and headline chosen to accompany the article. Heck, even op-ed contributors are never offered those perquisites.

    It would be one thing to suggest that such standards might be nice to adopt henceforth, but the tone of outrage that Gleick did not follow a standard of authorial conduct which did not exist until a day or two ago is unreasonable and inappropriate.

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  47. J Gilligan,
    Nice dodge on your part. I do not give a hoot in hades about the polar bears.
    The letter is the issue. The polar bears are icing on the cake...or toy bears on an ice block.
    The letter is filled from start to finish with lies, untruths, dissembling and self-serving hype for its lead author to sell a new book he happens to have just published.
    Your side wishes that the issue was as trivial as toy bears vs. real.
    Wish on.

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  48. Jono you want to see some vitriol? You want to see reactionary spleen washed down with bile by a self nominated "expert"?

    Take a gander at Pete's blog at the SFGate. http://imgs.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/index?blogid=104

    You ain't seen nothing yet.

    Don't expect to be allowed to post corrections to his wildly erroneous screeds. Liberals don't play that. The Gate is the mental equivalent of a Burmese junta.

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  49. -45-Jonathan Gilligan

    You write, "we might ask whether Prof. Pielke's choice to publish such strange comments to appear on his blog hurts his own credibility in reasonable people's eyes more than the polar bear hurts Dr. Gleick's"

    Let me reiterate that I have a very liberal comment policy, that is, I only reject spam, profanity and over-the-line ad homs. I do not moderate with a goal of influencing my credibility, which I would guess wouldn't work so well in any case;-)

    Even with a light hand in moderation, I have also set up a "rejected comment" thread for anyone who feels that the moderation is unfair. You can see from that thread (accessible to the left) that there have been very few such concerns.

    I am very pleased with the overall level of discussion on this blog, as compared to many. That said, please do note that it is more like that which you'd find in a pub or public space, rather than that in an academic classroom. So it can be a bit more rough and coarse. It is a public space, so that might be expected.

    We all share responsibility for keeping the tone respectful and substantive, and I appreciate your efforts and others to maintain a high level of discourse in the comments here.

    Thanks!

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  50. In Comment #45, Jonathan Gilligan discusses "the hostile response to Gleick that pervades the comments responding to this and the other Gleick post."

    He then moves from the general to the specific, providing supporting evidence from comments by Lucia (#41), Frontiers (#16), Bradley Fikes (#31), and papertiger (#25).

    This is helpful.

    I (a "lukewarmer") had an exchange with Boris (a proponent of the "AGW Consensus") on the question of whether comments in this thread raise substantive issues about the letter, in a thread at The Blackboard. Boris' observations are Comment #42625. I responded as Comment #42630.

    With respect to the unfortunate reference to Nazis entering the discussion: the moniker "denier" echoes the well-known term "Holocaust denier". Perhaps the drafters of the Letter simply have a tin ear on this point. That does not seem to be the case for many of the high-profile bloggers advocate the cause of the AGW Consensus. "Denialist" is also a descriptor with a clear pejorative connotation, implying a stance based on denial of facts and theories that are as real as the processes of evolution, or an Earth that is billions of years old.

    I am not suggesting that lack of respect is a one-way street -- alas, it is not. But I would have expected that the organizers of a major effort by academics to reach out to a broad audience would have avoided the appeal to emotion that results from the use of such terms.

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  51. An addendum to my comments re: Jonathan Gilligan #45. On the subject of (overly) emotional responses, he wrote,

    "Bradley Fikes ([#30]) [alleges] without evidence that Gleick compares those who disagree with him to "Nazis, Communists, and the Taliban" (I am not aware of anywhere that Dr. Gleick made such comparisons)."

    Here are excerpts from the two penultimate paragraphs of Dr. Gleick's essay New McCarthyism: Fear of science and the war on rationality (Sept. 7, 2009).

    - - - - -

    "We see unambiguous evidence that climate change is already affecting human health and the global economy... while public opinion polls show that the American people continue to be misled about the risks facing us by conservative pundits who ignore, misunderstand, or intentionally misuse that science to mislead the public into fear of change...

    "Fear is an effective tool -- as hate groups and extremists know. It is no accident that repressive regimes of all kinds -- fascists, the Nazis, Stalin, religious states, madrasses -- use tools of hatred, anti-intellectualism, and fear to control knowledge, universities, and intellectuals. Fear grows best when sown in fields of ignorance, while science, rationality, and education are the greatest weapons modern societies have against irrational fear..."

    - - - - -

    Bradley Fikes did not back up his allegation in #30. However, supporting evidence appears to exist.

    Perhaps Dr. Gleick intended to demonize "conservative pundits" while welcoming civil, informed debate with scientifically-literate individuals who doubt the "climate science is settled" mantra that is proclaimed by AGW Consensus scientists and boosters. (See, for instance, Stephen Pruett at #44, above.)

    If so, Dr. Gleick should make his thinking clearer on that point.

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  52. @AMac: Thank you for your insightful comments on the word "denier" and for providing evidence to show that I was wrong to doubt Fikes's assertion that Gleick compared his opponents to Nazis, Communists, and the Taliban. I stand corrected and disappointed---that kind of rhetoric has no place in these debates; I continue to find it equally curious, though, that people such as papertiger object to this rhetoric only when Gleick uses it, while cheerfully indulging in it themselves (comparing newspapers with whom they differ to totalitarian dictatorships). Whatever happened to the quaint notion of behaving better than the people you disapprove of (and I intend this criticism to all sides)?

    As to denier, I need another word. "Skeptic" describes some but not all of those who doubt mainstream climate science. Many folks I talk to are not open-minded skeptics, but are soundly convinced that AGW has been conclusively refuted and expend no energy questioning this belief. What collective noun without pejorative overtones would describe the whole group who doubt or reject mainstream climate science? Would "dissenters" be acceptable?

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  53. Jonathan,
    Contrary to what you say in your response to me, I have never mistaken what Gleick wrote for a peer-reviewed article. I did not suggest he should have demanded galley proofs. Moreover, I am suggesting he follow the pre-existing standard of authorial conduct with regard to letter to the editor.

    I said he should
    "1) Look at the final version as soon as he possibly can.
    2) Notice insertions — like the photo.
    3) Check the provenance of the photo and
    4) If there is a problem that will embarrass him or subvert the message of his letter, write Science and alert them."


    In this context, "as soon as he possibly can" means Gleick should have examined the letter when it was published: that is Friday. It is normal practice for letter writers to read their letter when they appear and protest if the newspaper has changed them in ways that changed the message. You are wrongheaded to think that academics are excused of the level of responsibility that would be expected of all other letter writers.

    When one writes a letter to the editor of a major newspaper, the editors of the paper regularly edit the letter for length and add a headline of their own choosing and sometimes an illustration to boot without consulting the correspondent.

    I believe The Chicago Tribune is considered a "major paper" ; they send their edited version of a letter to the editors to the person who submitted it. A letter my husband wrote appeared last summer, which the Tribune edited lightly and ran. They sent him a copy of the edited version for approval.

    Even though the paper sent a copy of the version that was to appear, both of us watched for, and read the letter on the morning it appeared to the public. Had his message been distorted for any reason, my huband would have followed the normal pre-existing practice of contacting the Tribune to demand clarification rather than have his name attached to content he did not approve.

    Even if SCIENCE does not do the authors the courtesy of sending them a review copy prior to publication Gleick had every opportunity to read the letter on Friday when it appeared, detect SCIENCE's insertion of the graphic (and act he later called "stupid) and ask them to change it.


    With regard to outrage: I suspect you are reading in a tone of "outrage" because I am explaining in detail what the standard of practice Peter should have followed. I included that level of detail because I think that if Peter is going to write letters to the editor signed by 255 others, he should be made aware of the standards the public expects of people who write letters to the editor. I am not outraged that he did not, but it appears that some academics have gotten so used to the courtesy of galley prints that they have forgotten the more standard practices expected when one write a letter to the editor.

    To the extent that Peter failed to check and act on Friday when the image of Ursus Bogus appeared with his letter, he shared the blam for the PR fiasco that ensued. If he thinks otherwise, he is, simply wrong.

    In closing, I would also like to say that if my using the word "wrong" strikes indicates outrage, you are wrong. I am using the word "wrong" to convey the idea of "wrong". It's a simple, straight forward word. When think something is outrageous, I use the word "outrageous".

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  54. Jonathan--
    I wasn't familar with Gleick before this incident. You wrote this:

    Even more emotion: Frontiers (#16) accusing Gleick of intimidation; #25 accusing him of being supremely "callous" and "deceitful" in "fabricat[ing]" a water crisis; Bradley Fikes (#31) alleging without evidence that Gleick compares those who disagree with him to "Nazis, Communists, and the Taliban" (I am not aware of anywhere that Dr. Gleick made such comparisons)..

    I did a quick google to see if there is a "Nazi" theme in Gleick's writing. Rather quickly, I found his water criis blog, where, at least once, he compared those who disagreed with him "fascists, the Nazis, Stalin, religious states, madrasses". Here's what Gleick wrote:

    We see unambiguous evidence that climate change is already affecting human health and the global economy -- evidence often collected by world-leading American scientists and scientific institutions -- while public opinion polls show that the American people continue to be misled about the risks facing us by conservative pundits who ignore, misunderstand, or intentionally misuse that science to mislead the public into fear of change. Yet we already see huge economic and environmental opportunities in adapting to the reality of climate change.

    Fear is an effective tool -- as hate groups and extremists know. It is no accident that repressive regimes of all kinds -- fascists, the Nazis, Stalin, religious states, madrasses -- use tools of hatred, anti-intellectualism, and fear to control knowledge, universities, and intellectuals. Fear grows best when sown in fields of ignorance, while science, rationality, and education are the greatest weapons modern societies have against irrational fear. No wonder Beck and his ilk have intellectuals in their sights; so do the leaders of Iran, and Burma, and the Taliban, and North Korea, for similar reasons.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/detail?blogid=104&entry_id=47022#ixzz0npRg6qRJ


    You can read the full thing at Gleick's water blog:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/detail?blogid=104&entry_id=47022

    So my response to your diagnosis that #25 is a delusional conspiracy fantasy is to note that
    #25 is the comment that accuses Gleick of "being supremely "callous" and "deceitful" in "fabricat[ing]" a water crisis;" Having never read other articles at Gleick's water blog, I can't guess whether the accusation he is callous, deceitful or fabricates the #25 is a delusional fantasy. I skimmed a few. I don't know whether the perils of cricket infested bottled water, or environmental destruction due to bottled water or other hazards are true or false, and honestly, I don't care. But #25 may very well be an accurate assessment. You may peruse the blog here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/index

    Do you seriously propose that these are examples of cool, reasoned discourse?
    Since Barry's accusation is true and #25 well may be true, I'm don't diagnose it as "emotional". Both may well dislike Gleick, but that doesn't mean they can't mention that he flings around Nazi accusations at his blog.

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  55. Jonathan,
    I continue to find it equally curious, though, that people such as papertiger object to this rhetoric only when Gleick uses it, while cheerfully indulging in it themselves (comparing newspapers with whom they differ to totalitarian dictatorships)
    Why do you assume that papertiger would only object to this rhetoric when Gleick uses it? Gleick is being discussed here; papertiger brings up his gripe about Gleick.

    There are plenty of people on both sides who object to this sort of rhetoric from either side when it occurs. I call out those who spew Nazi allusions regularly, and hurled by both warmers and coolers. But even though I think it's important to call out both sides when they use Nazi rhetoric, I don't see how this obligates papertiger to use his google-fu to identify a "cooler" who also painted his opponents as Nazi's before he can criticize Gleick for doing so.

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  56. @Lucia #55. I conclude that papertiger does not object to such rhetoric when his side uses it because he uses it himself in #48, comparing a newspaper he doesn't like to Burmese junta. How is that different from the Nazi/Communist/Taliban stuff you dislike in Gleick's rhetoric?

    BTW, I tried to google "Gleick" and "Nazi", "Gleick" and "Taliban," and "Gleick" and "Communist" before posting my #45, but clearly my searching skills are inferior to yours and AMacs and I didn't find anything. I am grateful to you for correcting me.

    Since I didn't know categorically, I was careful to state that I was not aware of Gleick using such rhetoric, not that I knew that he had not used it. I was careful not to say that Fikes was wrong, only that he had failed to support his accusation. False accusations are bad and although I'm not perfect, I do try hard to avoid them.

    #54: Re: delusional: Lucia, do you really think papertiger is plausible in asserting that Gleick is conspiring with the "State Democrats in their never ending bid to control every aspect of our lives"? I quoted the "every aspect of our lives" in my comment to make it easy for you to see what I was referring to. I simply don't find the notion of great conspiracies to deceitfully seize control of every aspect of our lives to be remotely plausible.

    Following up on what I said about accusations, if someone is going to accuse Gleick of all sorts of professionally heinous conduct, wouldn't a bit of evidence be helpful? How can you be so picky about checking the provenance of a photo illustration while being so tolerant of anonymous unsubstantiated character assassination? (and whether the charges are true or false, it's unsubstantiated until the evidence is provided).

    As to standards regarding letters to editors, "If you think your lack of knowledge about polar bears excuses your not detecting the obvious forgery, you are wrong." because he should "check the provenance of the photo" I've never heard of such a standard for letters to the editor. We disagree and I wonder whether there's some impartial source we can turn to that would help us resolve this dispute. If I'm wrong I will be pleased to be corrected.

    And back once more to the question of emotional heat in the comments: I continue to have a hard time hearing such rhetoric as your description of Gleick "stomping ... his little boy feet" as dispassionate civil discourse. (#24) It sounds to me like an inflammatory appeal to the emotions. Are you really telling me with a straight face that I'm wrong about that?

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  57. Lucia and Jonathan-

    While I appreciate and respect your substantive back-and-forth, I do want to observe that you are debating the relative merits of a comment by an anonymous commenter on a blog.

    I have no doubt that your combined intellect could, if hooked up Matrix-fashion, power both Tennessee and Illinois.

    So I wonder if I might entice you both to accept that people in pubs/blogs/public discourse say all sorts of things, which is great in a democracy, but that at the same time, suggest that there might be some other, perhaps more important, issues that you might argue about?

    ;-)

    Thanks!

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  58. Roger. Point taken. Thanks for the perspective.

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  59. Jonathan--
    Lucia, do you really think papertiger is plausible in asserting ....
    OK-- you're right on this and the Junta thing. Papertiger is over the top. I don't think Gleick or Democrats are conspiring to control ever aspect or our lives.

    How can you be so picky about checking the provenance of a photo illustration while being so tolerant of anonymous unsubstantiated character assassination? (and whether the charges are true or false, it's unsubstantiated until the evidence is provided).

    Simple: I can be what you call "picky" because Gleick the fully named prominant individual who was sufficiently influential to get his letter published in SCIENCE wrote a blog post insisting that we must disregard his blunder, trying to heap full blame for the mistake on staff at SCIENCE and seeming to accuse all who discuss the image of being part of a climate denial machine.

    Why do I spend considerably less time on papertiger? He is a nearly anonymous commenter at a blog. Well...What roger said ( "...I do want to observe that you are debating the relative merits of a comment by an anonymous commenter on a blog.")

    I've never heard of such a standard for letters to the editor.
    No? I'm interested to see when our ideas of responsibility toward verifying the accuracy of the printed letter diverge.

    Do agree that when you are aware a publisher is printing your letter, you really should read the version that appears to check whether editing has changed your message and to complain if they have misrepresented your message?

    Do you agree that when you check you pay attention to the effect of all changes-- -- insertions, deletions, and any changes of wording in your letter and that if the final result does not reflect your message, you should notice that and complain?

    Do you agree that if you don't complain, but instead proudly post a blog article announcing the appearance of your letter, readers will have reason to believe you endorse the document as it appeared?

    If you answer 'no' to the questions above, then we really do disagree. If you answered yes, then the disagreement may have to do with the fact that the SCIENCE added an image not text. But, if Roger will indulge us, we can figure out why we treat inages differently from text.

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  60. Lucia: Thanks for steering our exchange into a more productive direction. There are two things I would like to pursue:

    First, your challenge to me about pictures vs. text in a letter.

    You make a good point. I check text carefully, but you're correct that I tend to give illustrations much less weight. I notice them and have on occasion been mildly annoyed when editors have illustrated things with images that I felt gave a different spin to my text than I intended. But I felt that since the piece had already been printed, demanding a correction to the effect that the image gave the wrong spin would have been fussy to the point of preciousness.

    Clearly we differ on this, and perhaps it's because I see the image as quite secondary to what I wrote. What I wrote stands on its own. If the editors change what I wrote, the reader can never recover my actual words, but if they put an absurd picture next to it, my words are still there for the reader.

    But this brings me to my second question for you. Roger began these two blog entries as what seems to me a lesson in how to do public relations (or how not to). The message in his posts seems to be, "Peter: you're making mistakes getting your message across convincingly. Here, if you listen to me and Randy Olson, we can help you make your case more effectively."

    Much of this lesson is reminiscent of McLuhan's dictum that the medium is the message: where Gleick believed (as I have confessed to sort of believing) that the message stands apart and the reader would, for the most part, read the words (the message) independently of the image published next to them (the medium), both you and Roger seem to see the two as largely inseparable, and Randy Olson says message the reader draws from his symbolic associations with Photoshop as a medium render Gleick's text almost irrelevant.

    Insofar as the discussion is framed in this way, I'm on board with questioning my (and Gleick's) assumption that the image is so peripheral to the reader's experience of the text. I'm open to learning more about how people actually respond to these kinds of messages and to learning how to communicate more clearly. persuasively, and effectively.

    However, if Gleick had followed your advice and Roger's and promptly disavowed the photomontage? Would this have changed the reception of the letter? We can't tell, but if I were to judge from the small sample of people commenting on these two threads, I would conclude not.

    Most of the comments here seem to say that Roger's wrong: that the polar bear doesn't matter. Many who dislike Gleick say the bear doesn't matter because the text of Gleick's letter is dishonest itself. Many who like Gleick say complaining about the bear is just a disingenuous dodge to distract people from the compelling and persuasive letter. Both sorts of comments support Gleick's and my belief that people mostly judge the credibility of the letter independently of its visual context.

    So at the bottom of a long thread, having read Roger's posts and many comments on them, the picture still seems to me a small flaw that's been blown out of proportion. But I'll readily admit that the evidence on which I rest this conclusion is mighty thin.

    It would be nice if there were some more solid basis on which to judge what matters for communicating effectively about such touchy and polarizing matters. And it is here that I think further serious thought and discussion can be most productive.

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  61. The polar bear is just another false totem. Imagine a picture of a polar bear gorging on a seal pup. Would the nouveau-vert intelligencia be so angst-ridden about that? Seems the polar bears now have better PR agents than the seal pups. In fact polar bears will eat anything they can get their paws on:
    http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/info-books/polar-bear/diet.htm

    For all we know, climate change might make things easier as they adapt to eating animals that are easier to catch. Most research of our planet's history has indicated that life thrives in warmer climes and cold mainly kills life. So the only difference now is that we trust nature to get things right and we don't trust ourselves.

    This goes to the heart of all projections that merely reflect single-variable, linear thinking and spurious correlations. Over-reliance on such models in the finance game caused the odd notion that the boom-bust cycle was now over and hence burgeoning debt was not therefore a problem. Just how could such a patently silly idea be embraced by all those phD's - apparently the majority of the worlds economists?

    Alas, people too easily fooled themselves into thinking that a rising trend would keep rising because they absolutely knew the reason why it was rising. And when you know why something happens, then all data that contradicts it must surely be wrong.

    Nature though makes fools of us all. We just didn't expect the missing heat issue because the models said most warming was now due to greenhouse gases. Seems the data now tells us that it probably isn't. A lot of people still don't want to believe that though for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual science.

    But I'd settle for some consistency from Jonathan and Peter and all the other well-meaning but overly-pessimistic scientists. If you want to promote the idea that the industry-loving doomsayers are probably wrong about their projections of economic disaster from decarbonization efforts then please try to presume the industry-hating climate doomsayers are equally likely to be wrong with their own projections.

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  62. Jonathan Gilligan #52, #56 --

    Upthread, you offered an informed opinion, doubting Dr. Gleick's prior use of terms like "Nazi" do describe skeptics of the AGW Consensus. On being presented with fresh evidence, you evaluated it, and reviewed your prior assumptions.

    You then changed your point of view on this particular issue, and communicated that change on this thread.

    This makes you a representative of an extremely rare class of person, as far as the blog-based discussion of climate change.

    All sides would benefit from valuing and practicing the skills that you demonstrated here.

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  63. In #60, Jonathan Gilligan wrote --

    "Most of the comments here seem to say that Roger's wrong: that the polar bear doesn't matter. Many who dislike Gleick say the bear doesn't matter because the text of Gleick's letter is dishonest itself. Many who like Gleick say complaining about the bear is just a disingenuous dodge to distract people from the compelling and persuasive letter."

    Good observation; it seems to me this was a jumping-off point for Randy Olsen's discussion.

    I think both sides agree on the importance of the photo as a symbol--and one that confirms their prior beliefs.

    For proponents of the AGW Consensus, the focus on the photo symbolizes the eagerness of the Denialists to score public relations points with the public, rather than engage in substantive debate with scientists.

    For those skeptical of the Consensus, the selection of the dramatic photo by Science's editors symbolizes the Alarmists' control of the scientific press. Dr. Gleick's response symbolizes the Alarmists' eagerness to score P.R. points with the public, rather than engage in substantive debate with scientifically-literate critics.

    So partisans from all sides can hold up the photo as an illustration of the distasteful tactics of their adversaries.

    Note that my description of the various sides is awkward. It's hard to come up with succinct tags for the various positions that are neither flattering nor pejorative.

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  64. "However, if Gleick had followed your advice and Roger's and promptly disavowed the photomontage? Would this have changed the reception of the letter? We can't tell, but if I were to judge from the small sample of people commenting on these two threads, I would conclude not."

    I would have given Gleick credit for being concerned with facts above imagery. We all know it wasn't his fault. What's telling is Gleick's shrill, defensive reaction.

    Science is one of the most respected journals. It is supposed to scrupulously check everything published to make sure it's factual. And even non-science journalists have gone through this before -- if you publish a photo that has been altered, you need to tell the reader that. If you feel embarrassed in doing so, get an unretouched photo.

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  65. Jonathan--

    You ask many good questions, some of which I think I could engage. But I wanted to focus on this one:

    However, if Gleick had followed your advice and Roger's and promptly disavowed the photomontage? Would this have changed the reception of the letter? We can't tell, but if I were to judge from the small sample of people commenting on these two threads, I would conclude not.

    Because Roger's blog software limits the length of comments, I wrote a blog article: Time Line of the l’affaire “Gleick/Ursus Bogus”


    I first answered a slightly different question-- which is could Gleick have averted the PR disaster with people focusing on the fake-ice-bear, Peter's theory about why it's ok to post a fake-ice bear and, to some extent, Peter's tendency to resort to particularly virulent ad homs (i.e. the Nasi allusion at his blog

    I am convinced that Gleick could have avoided this PR disaster if he's reacted differently.

    To the extent that this PR disaster diverted from whatever message the 255 authors hoped to get across in the letter, yes, I think the response to the letter itself would have been more pleasing unto Gleick, his co-authors, and those who thought the letter might sway public opinion toward improved confidence in climate scientists. I can't say whether the letter would have fulfilled all their goals. The letter itself contained quite a bit of vague unpersuasive text. I think only those addicted to climate could what the "assaults" and "recent events" might be. It's unlikely the authors would have persuaded readers didn't know what the authors were talking about, many of those who do know have their own opinions about "the assaults" and "recent events".

    So, to the extent that I think the letter was not well written, I suspect Gleick and co-authors might have been disappointed in the outcome. But it didn't have to be a fiaso.

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  66. "Science is one of the most respected journals."

    Why? This particular episode was disgraceful. It does not seem possible that no one at Science realized that the photo that was being used was altered. So someone at Science deliberately used a faked photograph.

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