Sunday, September 9, 2018

Modern Galileos facing the Postmodernist Inquisition

Well that's distressing. This article, and the underlying incident, is getting a lot of circulation in Classical Liberal and Free Speech circles but does not yet seem to have burst out into the ideologically postmodernist anti-science mainstream media. From Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole by Theodore P. Hill.

The basic facts appear to be that a respected establishment researcher investigates a well documented phenomenon (Greater Male Variability Hypothesis (GMVH)) in order to try and understand why there is greater variability. The core facts, that in most species there is greater male variability across multiple traits than among females, is both empirically well established as well as hotly contested on ideological grounds. Basically, on many, but not all, traits, men have a higher standard deviation within a population than do women, even if they have the same population mean. There are more very high IQ men than women but also there are more very low IQ men than women as an example and men and women have identical average population IQ scores - same mean, higher standard deviation. These variable traits range from birth weights to running speeds to reading scores, etc.

Hill was investigating why that might be. My personal suspicion is that males are the disposable gender of most species. You can have very few surviving males in a large population of females without significant impact on the sustainability of the population. The reverse is not true. You cannot have few surviving females in a large population of males and expect a sustained population level.

Consequently, especially in an evolving environment where you need some minimum degree of population variance (diversity) in order to evolve, it seems to me that there is a likely pressure that that variance might be concentrated in the gender most disposable. That's my guess. It's testable. And perhaps it is either untrue or it only accounts for a small portion of the variability.

At this point we don't know. One of the reasons we don't know is that the whole topic is anathema to ideologues uninterested in knowledge but intensely interested in protecting their faith-based beliefs and their consequent privileged positions.

Take IQ as an example. Among various categories of leftist postmodernists, all disparate outcomes are a consequence of privilege and discrimination and cultural constructions. If Nobel science prize winners go 65% of the time to males and only 35% to females, then that is safe evidence that women are being discriminated against. On the other hand, if it is true that (made up example) all Nobel science prize winners have an average IQ of 130 AND the distribution of people with IQ of 130 is 65% male and 35% female (GMVH), then the Nobel science prize imbalance is not especially surprising.

The corollary is that privilege, discrimination and social constructions are not real things determining the distribution.

If there is no such thing as social construction, if there is no discrimination, if there is no privilege that needs to be fought against, then a large number of government policies and their associated power and money, become unnecessary.

It doesn't matter whether the anti-scientists are fighting science because of their ideological beliefs or because they are protecting their social positions and financial sinecures, they are still opposed to knowledge.

Hill does his research. One science magazine commits to publishing the results and then, after an ideologically motivated campaign by anti-science postmodernists, retracts that commitment. Later, a different science magazine publishers the research results, and then, after a similar ideological campaign, removes the paper from its archives and replaces it with an ideological paper instead.

This is not new but it seems to be becoming more frequent, or we are simply becoming more aware of it.

One of the earliest instances I recall is from 2009 with the East Anglia University climategate affair. Emails were leaked or hacked, revealing that the anthroprogenic global warming researchers were attempting to alter data sets to support their position, coordinate public disinformation campaigns against skeptics, and coordinate with other researchers to preclude evidence disadvantageous to their hypothesis from being published.

The AGW continues but the sharp edges are smoothing. Many of the early claims are clearly wrong. Developing world countries are becoming less insistent about it because the political circumstances in developed countries have become less amicable to wealth transfers. Much evidence is accumulating about how threadbare is our understanding of all the complex, loosely coupled, chaotic, non-linear systems (geologic, chemical, industrial, currents, solar cycles, clouds, farming practices, currents, nino-cylces, economic developments, measurement systems, etc.) which contribute to climate change. Everyone agrees that climate changes, but we still do not have a line of sight on how and why and to what degree CO2 emissions contribute. Some ideologues are absolutely certain (on both sides), but increasingly conversations are much more contingent.

Climategate was an instance where academics with ideological and monetary vested interests attempted to suppress evidence. Hill is bringing to light the same dynamics regarding GMVH.

Just this past week, I gave an instance in Very bright idiots on the issue of gender pay gap. A doctor accurately commented that doctors who work fewer hours earn less and that there is no problem with that reality. He was then hounded, shamed, misquoted and force to apologize for telling the truth.

AGW, GMVH, Gender Pay Gap - all these are empirical questions which we can answer by investigating reality. The challenge is that there are powerful institutional interests who subscribe to a postmodernist, post-truth, post-fact faith who have powerful interests in suppressing facts.

We make fun of the Catholic Church and their persecution of Galileo and his empirical claim that the earth circles the sun. We especially revile the Church for conducting a trial of Galileo on his heliocentric beliefs, finding him guilty and forcing him to recant his empirical findings that the earth circled the sun.

We make fun of the medieval corrupted church but our postmodernists are behaving in exactly the same fashion. Defending ideological articles of faith while punishing scientists who seek the truth.


  1. > Many of the early claims are clearly wrong

    In terms of the physical science, you are wrong.

  2. Brevity has sacrificed clarity. What is wrong?

  3. We can understand accurately many elements of a complex system with emergent order and still not understand the system itself. That is my claim. I make no claim about physical science.

    Climate is a function of multiple loosely coupled complex systems and my claim is that while there are elements we understand well, there are many aspects of the interactions which we do not understand. Is this the claim which you believe to be wrong?

  4. Or are you arguing that advocate scientists have not sought to suppress competing evidence (the point of the post)?

  5. > Brevity has sacrificed clarity

    Fair comment. But I didn't want to write an expansive comment if you weren't really interested. Also, the main piece I was reacting to was "Many of the early claims are clearly wrong", and you haven't provided any detail on what claims you think are wrong, or what you might mean by "early", so its kinda hard to rebut. I think the main early claim was that climate sensitivity is somewhere between 1.5 and 4.5 oC, and that's still true (perhaps the range has narrowed slightly). That's a claim about physical science, which one of your comments appears to disclaim commenting on, so perhaps that's not the sort of "early claim" you meant.

    On the complexity of the climate system, I agree that it is complex, but the formulation you give - we know some things but don't know others - doesn't say anything useful, because it provides no delineation; you could say the same about physics, for example.

    On the complexity, it is hard to know how much it matters. It looks like climate acts largely as a boundary value problem driven, in the current configuration, mostly by CO2 (because that's the only "external" forcing changing much).

    > arguing that advocate scientists have not sought to suppress competing evidence

    I'm certainly arguing that scientists have not suppressed competing evidence. Can you point to anything that was suppressed?

  6. Sure, that's the point of post and the examples are there. If we are restricting it to the AGW portion, its all the documentation that emerged from East Anglia between (from memory) Jones, Mann, Trenberth, and others trying to prevent publication of counter-arguments, how to discredit other researchers, etc.

    People dispute just how important those efforts were, but there is little dispute that that is what they were trying to do. And that's a single example, there is Curry at Georgia Tech, the fellow out in Colorado who all have documented the various efforts to prevent publication or presentation of counter arguments.

  7. > trying to prevent publication

    I'm not sure they were trying to prevent anything. There's banter in there, certainly. However, I'm pretty sure that noting was actually suppressed, so if you think anything was, I think the onus is on you to provide an example.

    > little dispute that that is what they were trying to do

    That's certainly not true, unless you lead a very cloistered life.

    Also, I don't see you as having provided any support for your posts assertion that "Many of the early claims are clearly wrong". Can you provide an example of an early claim that is now seen to be clearly wrong?

  8. Ah. Banter. So that's what we are calling it.

    They clearly were trying to suppress counter-evidence. Their own words. To what degree they were successful is open to interpretation. The experiences recounted by Judith Curry ( and Roger Pielke ( are illustrative of suppression resulting from sustained pressure to conform, regardless of the evidence. No more effective strategy than to drive the alternative views from the field.

    Many of the early popularized claims are wrong, or are at least hotly debated. Increased hurricane power (no) and frequency (no), ice free arctic (mixed), ice free antarctic (mixed or no), increased frequency of droughts, famine, snow free winters, etc. - all remain unclear or absent. And all are subject to the challenge that it is difficult to differentiate annual or short term events from longer term cycles. The counter argument is a no true Scotsman fallacy argument.

    The point is not that the climate forecasts are wrong. The point is that we do not know within any sort acceptable degree of confidence. We are talking about century and millennia phenomenon but using annual and decadal data. Our data sets are patchy, short duration, incomplete, and across mixed and often conflicting measurement mechanisms. We have incentive structures which are currently strongly skewed in one direction and not balanced. We have clear evidence, their own stated words and objectives, about suppression in multiple fields (AGW being one among many). Denying the explicit words by ascribing them to a "just kidding" dialog is pretty weak tea.

    The point of the post is that there is a lot of effort across multiple disciplines to win arguments by suppressing or deplatforming the opposing view. If you wish to deny that has happened in AGW, fine. I disagree and have provided examples and evidence.

    The larger point, regardless of your AGW position, remains true. As you likely are aware, Haidt and Lukianoff have a new book out on exactly that issue of the inclination to suppress debate and evidence.

  9. > Their own words

    That's what I'm asking for, yes. But you haven't provided "their own words". You've provided links to blogs which don't provide the words required. Both JC and RPJr are somewhat controversial; Curry in particular is off in the weeds. I've defended RPJr, e.g. but his viewpoint on the politics is not always correct.

    So if you want to assert that they were suppressing stuff, you can't just quote rather vague pieces by their opponents. You have to quote their own words.

    > early popularized claims

    But adding in "popularized" allows you to say anything. There's nothing so stupid that the press won't print it. Ice free Arctic is an obvious one: there's no reason to expect that soon, I even made money betting against people who thought otherwise (

    > The counter argument is a no true Scotsman fallacy argument.

    No. the counter argument is that you shouldn't be getting your science from the popular press. read the IPCC reports; that's what they are there for.

    > We have clear evidence, their own stated words

    You've said it again. But what you haven't done is actually provided the words.

  10. Yes, 99% of disputes might be eliminated by stopping advocates from using weather as examples of climate. But that is where the discussion resides. When the loudest of AGW advocates use the most disprovable arguments, that doesn't mean that they weren't used and that they shouldn't be disproved. We have to deal with the arguments which were made, even if they weren't the best arguments.

    You want words. Alright.

    Phil Jones "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

    Kevin Trenberth "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."

    Phil Jones: "Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re AR4? Keith will do likewise.

    "Can you also email Gene [Eugene Wahl, a paleoclimatologist in Boulder, Colorado] and get him to do the same ... We will be getting Caspar [Ammann, also from Boulder] to do the same."

    From New Scientist (
    "In a 2003 email, Mann discusses encouraging colleagues to “no longer submit [papers] to, or cite papers in” Climate Research, after it published papers by known sceptics"

    Quoting Phil Jones: “I can’t see either… being in the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

    NS: The correspondence also shows researchers trying to prevent critics gaining access to raw data, notably the CRU’s temperature data.

    Etc., etc. Of course, there is a story and rationalization behind everyone one of these quotes. Whether you are inclined to take them at face value or rationalize them away, they are a matter of record.

    I think we are caught in a do loop of futility. You keep asking for more evidence and I keep providing it, each iteration leading to one more splitting of hairs.

    I rest my case that much of the public discussion around science-related issues is marred by advocates who seek to suppress opposing views and AGW is as sullied as any other field.

  11. > We have to deal with the arguments which were made, even if they weren't the best arguments.

    But you need to understand whether you're engaging with the scientific arguments, or with "popularized" accounts. Dealing with the science is the better, and harder, course of action. Finding trash in the press is trivial.

    You have, finally, provided some direct quotes. Notice that only one of them - from Phil Jones - actually deals with suppressing papers. But this is a well-known case: the papers concerned were (of course) already published, so the issue wasn't suppression of publication, but of reference in the IPCC report. And the papers were referenced in the IPCC report.

    So your only attempt to provide evidence for suppression fails. I could, similarly, go through your other examples, if you're interested.

    > gaining access to raw data, notably the CRU’s temperature data

    You have misunderstood "raw data". CRU doesn't have any raw data: they don't make measurements themselves. They only collate data from other sources.

    > loop of futility

    I sense you would rather not continue the conversation, but I don't see why this is a loop. What's happened is that you made some vague claims, which took a while to turn into real quotes which could be definitively considered.

  12. It is a loop because, when you receive a response that addresses what you asked for, you split another hair and raise another issue further and further from the central point.

    You apparently wanted me to make a detailed AGW argument around some aspect important to you. That was not the point of the original post.

    You asked for quotes, I gave you quotes. Now you are attributing content in the quotes to me and asking me to defend those quotes.

    And in each round, more and more "no true scotsmen" arguments and creeping denigration.

    Nice rhetorical moves but not good faith argument. Hence a loop of futility. Happy for you to maintain your belief system.