Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Not Science to Slant Data

In the latest Science Saturday at bloggingheads, George Johnson tries to diminish the relevance of the climategate emails by saying that "everyone does it". As if, that's just locker room science talk.



There is no excuse for trying to hide the medieval warming period statistically, or diminish the credibility of critics. It isn't simple talk, and more than a white guy can say they use the N-word casually but that means nothing: everyone knows that someone who talks that way isn't credible on racial issues.

Talking about coalitions, and hiding conspicuous trends, is pure slanting data to one's predisposition. If someone shaded beta-return data from the 1970s because they were not relevant to the CAPM ,that would be conscious fraud. Luckily in economics we are all looking at the same data, so no one would even try to do that, but if they did, it would be a big, black stain. There is no good excuse for what they said in those emails.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

See also http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121703682_pf.html -- Mann's attempts at brushing off the emails.

Robert Johnson said...

I think it's important to note that the intention was to deceive the public and politicians rather than to deceive other experts on ancient climate. The medieval warm period is well-established, and has been for some time. They must have assumed that they could do a good enough PR and intimidation job to prevent an opposition story from becoming popularly accepted. Not an unreasonable supposition considering the fever-pitch over the issue.

stephen said...

I had been waiting for them to discuss climategate and sure enough it is too cringe inducing to listen to. Whenever someone says something like "message the data to get a meaningful signal", as if this were some infallible process, I want to cry. One of my favorites form Mcyntire was when he produced some hockey sticks from randomly generated "noise" in excel. You can't tell the difference from the official reconstructions.

Anonymous said...

How did those guys manage to make it "look" like the glaciers have gotten smaller in both the North and south hemispheres?