Strange Bedfellows

How bad was the stuff published in the now-defunct journal Pattern Recognition in Physics? So bad, that Anthony Watts and his crew are raking it over the coals.

They have roundly criticized what passed for “peer review” at that journal. Now they’re even criticizing individual papers on purely scientific grounds. Here for example is Willis Eschenbach taking to task one of those papers (by R. J. Salvador) which amounts to nothing more than “mathturbation.” He even used the word “mathemagical” to describe the wishful-thinking aspect (I prefer my own term).

I have heard some criticism of this (in private circles), basically amounting to the implication that they’re only doing so out of nefarious motives (to distance themselves from this fiasco, or to don a cloak of legitimacy). I say, let’s not do that. Criticizing the faulty peer review, and the faulty papers, is the right thing to do. Let’s not assume that they’re doing the right thing for the wrong reasons just because they are our scientific adversaries.


It is the right thing to do. It’s more important that we (the “editorial we”) hold *ourselves* to a high standard than to insist on that from others, and that’s what they’re doing right now. And there have been times when I’ve thought that *we* (not the “editorial we,” the *actual* we who argue that global warming is a real threat) need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

I know there’s a lot of chatter about how this is “hypocrisy” — why don’t they set the bar higher for *other* stuff? — but I will point out that’s irrelevant to the issue at hand. The issue at hand is the now-defunct journal and the papers in it. As far as that issue is concerned, they’re doing the right thing, and they’re setting a good example. So to the critics I say … get over yourselves.

Therefore I’m putting it on the record that I support them doing the right thing, and I object to those who heap scorn on them for doing so. If we want them to do the right thing on other topics, then we have to acknowledge — and praise — it when it happens.

So … how bad was the stuff published in the now-defunct journal Pattern Recognition in Physics? So bad, that I am standing up for Anthony Watts and Willis Eschenbach.

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22 responses to “Strange Bedfellows

  1. Praised & acknowledged! If there ever was a chance to have some sense re-enter the ‘debate’ this is one and yes, grab it with both hands.
    Motivation for that action is irrelevant, only substance is.

  2. dikranmarsupial

    Completely agree, nothing good comes of making the dscussion so partisan that we can’t agree with our “opponents” when they are right and can’t dissagree with those that are on the same “side” when they are wrong. The physics doesn’t depend on what side of the argument we are on; what side of the argument we are on should depend on the physics.

  3. I’m honestly, and pleasantly surprised. I expected more appeals to Galileo and claims of persecution. I’m prepared to give credit where credit is due. But not all that much: acknowledging the obvious in one case is a very small step in the right direction.

  4. Completely agree. Yesterday, I spent a portion of my day on twitter peppering Tallbloke over this whole issue. I pointed out several times, not even Tony agrees with what they did and they should be embarrassed about their actions. I certainly don’t see anything gained by taking Tony to task for actually applying a little skepticism to their own side.

    Interestingly, on of Tallbloke’s comments was, “Anthony was using the issue as a stick to beat me with for other reasons. Pity he’s clueless on astrophysics of resonance.”

    I did point out to Tallbloke that it is hypocrisy to have railed about “pal review” in the past only to turn around and create a journal for exactly that purpose.

    Of course, then began the bovine labor pains.

  5. The opposite of this attitude was recently demonstrated by none other than Rush Limbaugh here:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/15/1269863/-Rush-Limbaugh-If-Christie-was-a-true-conservative-whether-he-lied-wouldn-t-nbsp-matter?detail=email

    I’m sure Limbaugh, if he ever gets word of WUWT position on this will iterate the same quotes but replacing Christie and True Conservative liberals and democrats with the appropriate choices from WUWT, Skeptic and PRinP.

  6. To his credit, Anthony has been wary of Scafetta’s work and barycentrism for quite a while, so it’s not a sudden change in his stance.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/21/scafettas-new-paper-attempts-to-link-climate-cycles-to-planetary-motion/

    The same goes for Eschenbach

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/07/30/riding-a-pseudocycle/

  7. johnrussell40

    I think we should also welcome the fact that at last the pseudosceptics seem to be questioning each others’ beliefs. For too long they appeared to follow the principle that as long as you denied the science of climate change and had a go at ‘the alarmists’, you were ‘on side’ and one of the good guys. The contradictions in their arguments, and their refusal to address them, made my eyes roll.

  8. [edit]

    I’ll get back to criticizing Watts & Co. in due time. But for the moment, let’s do the right thing too.

  9. tamino –

    Seems to me that supporting or criticizing Anthony and/or Willis. should depend only on the validity of their criticism of the .PRIP articles.

    Along those lines, I’d be curious to know your reaction to Willis’ article about the R. J. Salvador article. In the comments, a few readers say that Willis’ criticism are poorly grounded, show a poor grasp of statistics, and reveal a sloppy reading of the authors work and intent. Upon reading those comments I thought “Hmmm, I wonder what tamino might say?,” because I have learned from experience that you can’t count on Willis to respond to criticism in good faith.

    It seems to me that you wouldn’t want to be supporting Willis’ efforts if they reflect bad science.

    [Response: The two main points are: 1) there are so many free parameters in the model that you can fit an elephant, make her wiggle her trunk, and give birth to twins; 2) an easy and simple check is to do out-of-sample verification. Both are valid points.]

  10. Sorry – actually I meant the “Sunspots and Sea Level” article from Willis’ – although I see that there are some similar criticisms in the comments to Willis’ article about the R.J. Salvador article as well.

    • Thanks for the comments on the one article – I would still appreciate a quick impression of “Sunspots and Sea Level” article from Willis’ — if you have the time or inclination.

  11. I assumed it had something to do with the recent bout of infighting, with
    Roger Tattersall
    (tallbloke) and Anthony. Let me think about it.

  12. [edit]

    I’ll get back to criticizing Watts & Co. in due time, and there’ll be plenty of opportunity for readers to pile on. For the moment, let’s take the high road.

  13. To his credit, Willis Eschenbach has taken on a number of the silliest things in the contrarian camp, ranging from outright denial of the greenhouse effect, to denial that long-wave radiation can warm the oceans, to silly “theories” like Nikolov & Zeller’s “Unified Theory of Climate”.

    And, Anthony seems to respect Willis’s opinion on these things. (He initially seemed taken in by Nikolov & Zeller’s work but soured on it rapidly once Willis tore into it.)

    People like Tallbloke are basically hopeless.

  14. Rattus Norvegicus

    [edit]

    [Response: I’ll get back to criticizing Watts & co. soon, and there’ll be plenty of opportunity for readers to pile on. But for the moment, I’ve declared a moratorium on this. It can wait.]

  15. The thing about PRP was how amateur it was. The editors had no clue and the authors were writing for a jr. high school science magazine. Which, to be frank is also Eli’s take on Willis and Willard Tony, but his hope is that everyone gets a bit more sophisticated in their science.

  16. Apparently posting someone’s actual credentials is some sort of crime. For the record,

    Roger Tattersall, HNC [Higher National Certificate] Mechanical and Production Engineering, Leeds Metropolitan University (1985); B.A. History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds (1988); Customer Services manager, Vital online Ltd. (2000-2004); Fundraising Coordinator, Yorkshire Air Ambulance (2006-2008); Digital Content Manager, School of Education, University of Leeds (2009-2013)

  17. Yes, Pop: and in that list of Talbloke’s “CV,” what gives him the cred to critique ANYTHING that actual, degreed and experienced climate scientists assert?