"Fake But Accurate" Science?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science claims for its journal Science

'the largest paid circulation of any peer—reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.'

Be that as it may, Science is the Dan Rather of science journalism. "Fake Data, but Could the Idea Still Be Right?" in the July 14 issue actually makes the following statement (emphases mine):

European investigators last week confirmed that a pioneering oral cancer researcher in Norway had fabricated much of his work. The news left experts in his field with a pressing question: What should they believe now? Suppose his findings, which precisely identified people at high risk of the deadly disease, were accurate even though data were faked?

AAAS's fake—but—accurate standard of scientific rigor applies not merely to the science of such obscure and unimportant subjects as death, disease, and cancer, but extends even to the science of impending doom.

The Hockey Stick Graph

The so—called "hockey stick" graph appears in the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations organization that dominates climate change discussion.  The graph purported to show that world temperatures had remained stable for almost a thousand years, but took a sudden turn upward in the last century (the blade of the hockey stick). It was the product of research into "proxy" temperature records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and coral reefs, by Michael Mann, the Joe Wilson of climate change. It can be seen here.  Charles Martin took a critical look at it last March for The American Thinker

The problem is that the world was almost certainly warmer than it is today during the "Medieval Warm Period" or "Medieval Climate Optimum" of the 9th through 14th Centuries, which was followed by the "Little Ice Age" of the 15th through 19th Centuries, whose end is the occasion for today's global warming hysteria.

But Science magazine stuck to its argument. "Politicians Attack, But Evidence for Global Warming Doesn't Wilt" in the July 28 issue of Science not only employs the typical deceitful rhetoric of the scientific establishment, here presenting an argument among scientists as an argument between scientists and politicians, but also uses the fake—but—accurate excuse for the corrupt activities of its favorite scientists.

Mann's statistical methodology was soon exposed as flawed, if not downright fraudulent, by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, and he responded by refusing to make public the details of his analysis. This in turn angered Joe Barton and other members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who objected to this arrogant refusal to allow oversight of federally financed research—either by the responsible congressional committees or by the scientific community.

Hence the recent hearings and the dishonest report of them in Science.

Since Mann's work—and the IPCC's inclusion of it in its report—are indefensible, Science resorted to the fake—but—accurate defense. Gerald North of Texas A&M, testifying on behalf of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences,

"concluded that the hockey stick was flawed but the sort of data on which it was based are still evidence of unprecedented warming."

The graph shows unprecedented warming; the graph is flawed in such a way as to produce a false appearance of unprecedented warming; nevertheless, there is unprecedented warming.

"Finding flaws 'doesn't mean Mann et al.'s claims are wrong,' he told Barton."

I must admit that it is possible for science to be fake but accurate, just as it is possible for Israel to have committed war crimes despite the fact that the evidence for them is faked. It is indeed possible that, as the New York Times famously proclaimed, "Memos on Bush Are Fake But Accurate, Typist Says."

The question, however, is not whether it is possible that Israel committed war crimes or that George W. Bush did not complete his National Guard service, but whether we have any reason to believe the reporting of Reuters or CBS News. It is possible that the hockey stick is accurate, but why should we take the word of Michael Mann, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the United Nations for it?

Michael Mann faked his statistics, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published his fakery, the American Association for the Advancement of Science suggested that the fakery is beside the point, and the United Nations, well, readers of The American Thinker are quite acquainted with the United Nations.

The article in Science would do Dan Rather proud. It says the North investigation found that the "only supportable conclusion from climate proxies" was that "the last few decades were likely the warmest of the millennium."

However, here is what North actually testified.

"It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries."

Four centuries, not the millennium! North testified that recent decades were warmer than the Little Ice Age, not that they were warmer than the Global Warm Period!

North also testified that he

"finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium."

North first said that in recent decades the world was likely warmer than in any other time in the last four hundred years. Then he said that in recent decades the Northern Hemisphere was likely warmer than in any other time in the last millennium. Science has converted these statements into the claim that in recent decades the world was likely warmer than in any time in the last millennium.
So much for the Scientific Method.

But even the statement that the Northern Hemisphere was likely warmer than in any other time in the last millennium is subject to uncertainty according to North:

However, the substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large—scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that 'the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium' because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales.

As to Mann's scandalous statistical manipulations, North says gently,

"We also question some of the statistical choices made in the original papers by Dr. Mann and his colleagues."

Ah, the "choices" euphemism.

A perfectly reasonable letter to Michael Mann from Representative Barton, who is derisively characterized by Science as a politician, makes clear that in the morally inverted universe of the liberal scientific establishment, it is the scientists who play politics, forcing the politicians to uphold the ideals of science.

As you know, sharing data and research results is a basic tenet of open scientific inquiry, providing a means to judge the reliability of scientific claims. The ability to replicate a study, as the National Research Council has noted, is typically the gold standard by which the reliability of claims is judged. Given the questions reported about data access surrounding these studies, we also seek to learn whether obligations concerning the sharing of information developed or disseminated with federal support have been appropriately met....According to The Wall Street Journal, you have declined to release the exact computer code you used to generate your results. (a) Is this correct? (b) What policy on sharing research and methods do you follow? (c) What is the source of that policy? (d) Provide this exact computer code used to generate your results.

The subcommittee commissioned a study of the hockey stick headed by Edward Wegman of George Mason University, Chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences, referred to dismissively as "Barton's choice" by the article in Science. The study reached the following conclusions:

In general, we found MBH98 and MBH99 [papers by Mann] to be somewhat obscure and incomplete and the criticisms of MM03/05a/05b [papers by McIntyre and McKitrick] to be valid and compelling.

In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of coauthored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus 'independent studies' may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface.

It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent.

Overall, our committee believes that Mann's assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.

The response of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science and its prestigious journal? It refers to the hockey stick as a "now—superceded curve."

"An ill—advised step in Mann's statistical analysis may have created the hockey stick, Wegman said."

Statistical choices, ill—advised steps, fake but accurate, what difference would it make, flawed doesn't mean wrong. The betrayal—of—science establishment has adopted the standards of Dan Rather and Reuters and should be equally trusted.

Jonathan David Carson, Ph.D., may be reached here. For more information, see his website.