It speaks clearly to truth

What a weird phrase. It sort of sounds like it ought to mean something, but it means nothing at all. “It speaks clearly of truth” would be better – but the grammar doesn’t quite work. The alternate title to this post, incidentally, was “Like a trouser, yet not a trouser“. I’ll reserve that for future use.

I picture a large mountain, immaculate and shining with pure snow, glowing with inner fire: Mt Truth, the abode of all that is truthy. And down below, gazing up at the summit glimpsed dimly through the clouds, a small (but clear-voiced) figure speaking. Errm, to the mountain. Is the figure asking a question of Mt Truth? “Dear Mt Truth, I am small and confused, please help me to see further”? Alas no, the figure is hectoring Mt Truth with gobbledegook. Which is probably the fate of all who try to talk to Mt Truth, rather than asking questions of it.


(Here’s my poppy, also glowing with inner fire, or rather with transmitted fire. I like the picture, even though its not really a picture of the poppy – the colours are wrong, the red too orange and not deep scarlet. anyway, on with the show…)

Well, that was a jolly exciting story, no? But what am I on about? Alas, nothing worthwhile. Its yet another of those occasions when WUWT posts nonsense (the “speaks clearly to truth” is part of AW’s intro; perhaps (were we to credit him with sufficient insight) a subtle hint at the garbage to come), this time The “ensemble” of models is completely meaningless, statistically its by Robert G. Brown, some wacko physicist who, in the usual way of these things, may or may not be a competent physicist but is utterly (and like so many physicists, forcefully) clueless outside of his field. Large parts of the post are, I think, literally nonsense; most of the rest and the title point is just wrong, as pointed out by William Briggs, himself a bit of a wacko. But he’s entertaining:

Brown is wrong. What he said was false. As in not right. As is not even close to being right. As is severely, embarrassingly wrong. As in wrong in such a way that not one of his statistical statements could be repaired. As in just plain wrong. In other words, and to be precise, Brown is wrong. He has no idea of which he speaks. The passage you quote from him is wronger than Joe Biden’s hair plugs. It is wronger than Napoleon marching on Moscow. It is wronger than televised wrestling.

That’s Briggs trying to get things through into WE’s thick skull. Naturally enough, it bounces off. Because we’re in New Aristotelians – WE is unable to abstract: he can’t see past his hatred of climate models to the underlying statistics, which is the point that Briggs is trying to make.

I probably shouldn’t snark too much, though. I’ve never been entirely happy with the IPCC habit of drawing spaghetti graphs with little attention to which of the models are any good; and I’ve even got a paper suggesting we might try to weight the models by how much they resemble reality. But really you’re better off reading James Annan.

Oh, but I wanted to add something else: all that stuff is going nowhere; the arguements are not only wrong, but not really interesting or relevant (I’m not talking about JA, of course). They’re just wandering lost in the darkness. But that’s part of the point: for the denialists, the entire point is to go nowhere and understand nothing. I find it hard to believe, though, that very many other than the hardcore really want to go down that path; or that path has any coherence. So while there’t lots of noise, there’s no substance and no weight. The denialists have no “bottom”, to use a seafaring term. The terms of debate are set by the IPCC reports, which are coherent; and the upcoming AR5 will move things onwards, somewhat.

[Update: Briggs says “Update I weep at the difficulty of explaining things” which is fair enough. Its practically a quote from Leviathan in The Deep; or indeed from anyone trying to talk to the more unthinking denialists. On a more serious note, I’m pleased to say that I’m now the #2 google hit for “like a trouser, yet not a trouser” -W]

* Government to reduce cull opposition by demonising literary badgers


26 thoughts on “It speaks clearly to truth”

  1. Wow, what a mess that post at WUWT is.

    Nick Stokes tries valiantly to inject some sense into the comment thread, but it’s a lost cause. Of course no good deed goes unpunished, so Nick’s reward is to be called some rather unpleasant names. If the insults were directed at him or his buddies, Anthony Watts would have banned the commenters and deleted their comments in a heartbeat, but since they’re on his side he lets them bash away at Nick gleefully.

    That place is a cesspool. Ugh.


  2. Physics is the purest science, and you calling Brown a “wacko physicist” is laughable. If there were a “Mt Truth”, its acolytes would be physicists. Remember, “Science consists of physics, and stamp collecting”. Physicists, when roused, are well competent to evaluate the lesser disciplines. And that is likely the immediate threat to your climate alarmism, that the physicists of the world will finally come down from the mountain and declare you all as the idolaters that you are — as Freeman Dyson, William Happer, and Robert Brown have already done. That, and the planet Earth which refuses to follow your inane script.


  3. > the entire point is to go nowhere and understand nothing.

    As explained by a GOP strategist, quoted at
    ——excerpt follows———

    PAUL WEYRICH: They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by…

    BILL MOYERS: Weyrich recognized that too much democracy could endanger his movement.

    PAUL WEYRICH: As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
    ———–end excerpt———–


  4. One more thing before I slip off into the good night: About this 97% consensus thing, I hope you all realize that science always goes in this way. First you get a new paradigm, then it grows and develops until it becomes the new norm with “97% consensus”. Then along comes a paradigm-breaker and the cycle starts again. All the greatest names in science, Bohr, Einstein etc were consensus-breakers. So your 97% consensus means nothing.

    And now, a closing word from the biologists, who have a saying: “Ubiquity is the last step before extinction”. Yes, ubiquity = your 97% consensus. Ubiquity will not keep you from iniquity, nor from extinction. Bye now.


  5. So NZ Willy agrees there is a consensus and no “paradigm-breaker” has yet arrived. But NZ Willy has faith that it will.


  6. Yeah, you gotta have faith.


    “All the greatest names in science, Bohr, Einstein etc were consensus-breakers”

    is just not true. They all built on what came before them. Solid consensuses get rarely broken — I cannot off the cuff think of a single example.

    [Perhaps you have to look back to the overthrow of “Greek physics” – Copernicus, Brahe, Momentum, and so on.


  7. After extolling the universality of physicists, NZ WIlly leaves the bad odor of Brown’s rotten understanding of statistics still hanging in the air.

    Empty boasting isn’t an argument.


  8. I find it easier to understand the value (or lack thereof) by looking at the various ensemble models for Atlantic hurricanes. There are quite a few and they usually vary significantly in the early stages of hurricanes.

    But the interesting part isn’t the mathematics, or the variance or finding the best model or figuring out how to weight the “better” models. It’s the discussion by the forecaster that is the expert. Sometimes they discount one model, the next hurricane it will be a different model, etc. No single model is “better” than another, otherwise they would stop wasting cycles on the poor ones. Rather, the effort of assessing a particular model for a particular hurricane is based up the models previous ability to predict with similar conditions. Plotting all the models on one graph is entertaining but in reality, it is the models strengths and weaknesses for the conditions that are more important than it’s mean and variance. In that sense, there is no mathematical way to weight them (except an all encompassing model that if existed would negate the need for any other models). The weighting would be more complex than the model itself as it would have to dynamically weight each model based on present and forecasted conditions. The model weights, it seems, would have as much variance as the models.


  9. Worth re-emphasizing is JA’s excellent point that there already exists a large body of methodology and literature on ensemble forecasting in the context of NWP. But as far as I know this has mostly been ignored in the climate community. I’d gladly stand to be corrected if anyone can point to references.


  10. Ironically, it’s far from clear and probably not true. However, I might start to use it at those time when people around me are saying things way outside my field or I just haven’t been listening. In a pause I can nod sagely and say, “Well it speaks clearly to truth, doesn’t it?” Then get up to go to the bathroom before anyone can ask me what the hell I mean.


  11. [Perhaps you have to look back to the overthrow of “Greek physics” – Copernicus, Brahe, Momentum, and so on.

    Sure. But then you’re looking at the birth of modern science, which tells you little about the fate of consensus within modern science. Yes, I’m cheating a bit by substituting “modern science” for “science”.


  12. the arguements are not only wrong, but not really interesting or relevant

    Or as Pauli, yet another nutty physicist, put it: not even wrong.

    And physicists really should know better, because it only takes a few sentences to explain at the spherical cow level why adding CO2 to the atmosphere might be a problem.


  13. On top of the promised future use of “Like a trouser, yet not a trouser”, I feel that an entire series of headlines based on the Hutton ouevre would be a great success. “Is this a library or a bordello?” is the obvious candidate, but from there the sky’s the limit.


  14. the trouble is : the models are still wrong.the planet isn’t warming.get over it!!

    [You too are unable to understand the importance of separation. Listen to Briggs, at least on this point -W]


  15. check out all the main global temp. graphs from nasa giss,hadcrut3/4 uah,rss here:
    what will happen if the sun goes into grand solar minimum soon ? will the temp. anomaly start going up? it isn’t very likely is it !!!


  16. I remain fond of John N-G’s discussion on “lack of warming” especially the 3rd graph with the regression lines.
    Of course, a large number of people seem clueless about Ocean Heart Content and ENSO jiggles.

    Finally, if something “speaks clearly to Truth”, what does Truth say back? Somehow, that reminds me of Shakespeare (or maybe the deep ocean is doing that:

    ‘Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?
    Why, I can teach you, cousin, to command
    The devil
    And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil—
    By telling the truth. Tell truth and shame the devil.’


  17. check out all the main global temp. graphs from nasa giss,hadcrut3/4 uah,rss here:

    Fascinating. Why would anybody pick 1998-2006 as their baseline for comparison? (I mean a good reason, obviously, rather than the obvious bad one…)


  18. for dunc:
    what baseline date do you suggest? shall we have(end of Little Ice Age) 1850? or shall we have the cold 1970s? either of these baselines will then show warming thereafter.1998 was an outlier caused by a super e lnino.even if we chose 1990,the temperature graphs still end up sideways at best.


  19. and again dunc:
    who mentioned a baseline of 1998-2006?
    i didn’t! and most of the temp.anomaly graphs go back far beyond 1998 !thanks!


  20. Phil, most of the charts on that link you gave are baselined against 1998 – 2006 – they say so quite clearly. Did you even bother looking at your own link?

    As for what baseline I would suggest… How about one that’s actually long enough to escape the noise, at least? That’s usually held to be 20 to 30 years. The standard baseline is 1951 – 1980. Why change it?


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