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Uninformed criticism

The Hockey Stick Illusion has now clocked up 24 five-star reviews on, a number which is rapidly approaching the total number of books I expected to sell when I started writing. 

However, on the other side of the pond it's a different story, with two reviewers on now having given me the one-star treatment. Unfortunately, neither of them actually appear to have read the book, one implying that my target is the global warming theory as a whole and the other seeming to think that I have proposed "statistical adjustments". However, I'm sure they enjoyed themselves.

Meanwhile, Bart Vergheggen and one of his commenters have also been setting down their opinions on yours truly.

Bart's commenter Marco talks of my "polemical" writings, which is odd because from where I stand I'm more in the "dull but worthy" category than the "fierce polemic" one. According to a commenter here, in an earlier version of his comments Marco may have mistaken me for Lord Monckton, which is amusing if true - there is a comment about "Monckton's Bishop Hill blog" at Real Climate some time ago from someone called Mark. The comment at Bart's has changed now, so it may be that he has worked it out. Either way, the criticism is misplaced.

Bart, meanwhile, says he thinks Spencer Weart's book is better than mine.

One reason he gives is that Weart's book has "no speculation". Which is odd, because I think I have provided a citation for pretty much every major claim made in my book and most of the lesser ones too. I wonder what parts of the book he thinks are "speculation"?

He also says that Weart has no "conspiratorial thinking", and again I struggle  to see what he can be referring to. I don't think I've talked of conspiracies in the book and indeed I've set out my opinions on the idea that global warming is a vast left-wing conspiracy in a posting a few months back - it was called "No conspiracy".

To his credit, Bart is very clear that he hasn't actually read my book either. So, like the commenters on, he has criticised my book based on what he thinks I have said rather than what I have actually written. We might say, in fact, that his hypothesis that I have engaged in speculation is, well, speculative.

Perhaps he thinks it's some kind of conspiracy too?


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Reader Comments (49)


The link to 'no conspiracy' post is broken (repeat of the earlier link)

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer


Fixed now. Thanks.

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Ain't recursion grand: The Hockey Stick Illusion Illusions?

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

I think a complimenatry copy of THSI to Bart is in order.

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennis

No problem


Unfortunately, neither of them actually appear to have read the book, one implying that my target is the global warming theory as a whole

Skimming the reviews, it looks like some of the 5 star reviewers have the same impression. Also that the hockey stick 'underpins' the IPCC conclusions (something which I believe even McIntyre has conceded isn't true).

I haven't read the book myself yet (apart from the 'look inside' bit on amazon) so I don't know if the book sends that impression or allows it by omission.

Anyway it's fairly clear that many of the favorable reviews are either politically motivated or from people who had their minds made up already, too.

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer

By the way, is Matt Ridley from the blurb the same guy that wrote Nature via Nurture?

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer


The book is clear that the Hockey Stick is not central to the AGW hypothesis. I say that it is important because the IPCC promoted it as if it were.

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:52 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

And yes, it's the same Matt Ridley.

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:53 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Just finished the book... astonishing. I am amazed how much it reminds me of the Enron scandal (a comparison I believe already made on another blog regarding the CRU leak). All you need to do is swap out the names and activities and the stories "converge" nicely. Each has an abundance of hubris and (self) rightousness, in each case the "check and balance" was compromised (outside auditors vs. peer-reveiw process), and in each an ASTONISHING sense of superiority and entitlement. If not too lazy, LOL, I may write a piece as a more in depth comparison. (My background is risk manager in the energy trading field involving detecting/preventing fraud, model and data errors, rogue trading... all the fun stuff that naughty children enjoy messing with when unchecked!) Cheers and thanks for a great read!!

Mar 21, 2010 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPancho

And yes, it's the same Matt Ridley.

Wow. You must be chuffed with that endorsement. That guy is a brilliant science writer. I have a couple of his books.

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer

Frank, if as you admit you've not read the book, then how can you comment on whether the reveiwers have accurately reflected it? I've read it twice, and those reviews look spot on to me. Very short on polemic or speculation, but a very accurate (and extremely well referenced) exposition of the background to Mann Made Global Warming. As for ascribing motives to people... tut tut.

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterQuidnunc

Marco is one of the foot soldiers of the Holy AGW Army aka Tamino's Trolls. They march in any climate blog discussion with the orders to spam the thread with straw men, red herrings and ad homs. Other known foot soldiers are Dhogaza aka "Dho" and Eli Rabett aka "Pluralis Majestatis".

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi


Frank, if as you admit you've not read the book, then how can you comment on whether the reveiwers have accurately reflected it?

I don't take a position on which ones are accurate, but they can't all be accurate.

Since some of the reviews are pretty extreme then if they do accurately reflect the book then so is the book. On the other hand, if they don't accurately reflect the book - and I'll take the Bishop's word for it - then they should be criticised the same way as the 1-star reviews.

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer

I'd be a bit careful about trumpeting Matt Ridley as a supporter. Great as a popular science writer, not so great as Chairman of Northern Rock bank. Maybe not relevant to his views on climate science, but for some people any mud will do to sling.

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavidB

Regarding reviews, may I suggest a US collaborater does a cut-and-paste job, taking those on and placing them into Would be delighted to do it myself if you want.

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim Hooper

Come on Frank, treat yourself and read the book, or are you too busy typing to spend the time reading it? It's very well-written and an enjoyable read, even if you disagree with the points being made.

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

David S,

Come on Frank, treat yourself and read the book, or are you too busy typing to spend the time reading it? It's very well-written and an enjoyable read, even if you disagree with the points being made.

I agree that the bit I have read is well-written, and I probably will get around to reading it. It is more that I have about a couple dozen books in an ever growing 'to read' pile - plus I'm not very interested in the hockey stick topic as I think it's not a really key point. Plus when I do read it I'll want to review it and therefore fact-check it a bit which is going to be time consuming.

It's got nothing to do with disagreeing with the points - I read plenty of stuff I don't agree with and I already read and take the time to understand a lot of the arguments of the 'other side'. I wonder how many 'sceptics' can say the same, or indeed have ever cracked a book laying out the fundamentals of global warming or the history of it (e.g Spencer Weart's book).

Mar 21, 2010 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank O'Dwyer

But you failed to mention the other six (now seven) reviews were all five star reviews. Plus the comments beneath the one-star reviews rip htose guys up one side and down the other. So, no worries, Bishop! :-)

Mar 21, 2010 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael

"those" Duh!

Mar 21, 2010 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael

"or indeed have ever cracked a book laying out the fundamentals of global warming or the history of it (e.g Spencer Weart's book)."

For Pity's sake Frank - stop digging such an enormous hole for yourself and go and read the book.

Mar 21, 2010 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Pedant-General

excellent piece in australia's quadrant magazine. hope it goes into the print edition.

21 March: Quadrant: Barry Brill: End-phase of the Climate Wars?
History may see the interview of CRU’s Professor Phil Jones by the BBC’s Roger Harrabin on 12 February 2010 as the opening of the end-phase of the long-running “alarmists versus sceptics” debate...
The world has been experiencing a long-term gentle warming since the end of the Little Ice Age. Professor Jones has said elsewhere[i] that this natural variability has averaged 0.11C per decade. So, the “extraordinary” recent warming that calls for explanation is the balance of 0.051C per decade.
This is the smoking gun. It is the sole evidence that a measurable but unexplained increase in global temperatures has coincided with the post-1950 increase in human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Jones says that this correlation is evidence of causation, because the IPCC has no other explanation...

Mar 21, 2010 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Rather like all those who behave like inebriated parrots, repeating the same mind numbing claims over and over and over, they haven't actually done any homework (or read the book in this case). I'm absolutely convinced that
the great majority of the vociferous supporters of AGW actually know very little about the science, and if forced into a debate with most sceptics contributing here and on other blogs, would be thoroughly trounced.
I wrote to my Labour MP recently to advise that I was less than happy with Brown and Miliband, and might be tempted put my 'X' in someone else's box unless I saw a more open approach. The reply, which I have just received, was copied and pasted from the same old garbage that appears every time a nobody is propped up to give their "expert" opinion.
There is no possibility of any question in the minds of these fools. They are totally convinced and their minds are firmly closed. It's a very sad, worrying and dangerous situation when our elected representatives will not listen to their people.

Mar 22, 2010 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterWee Willie

The one stars are definitely folks who haven't read your work. I'll need to make my contribution to amazon with a 5 star review when I finish...even though I feel I could give it five stars now. I think this award winning material. Is this your first book? Have you written before? You have a very bright future ahead of you.

What I have learned about amazon reviews is that when they are that polarizing, it ain't about truth and reality. Don't worry too hard about the one stars. Most will see right though the bull$hit.

Again...great work!! I've been promoting HSI among my circle of friends. I consider it required reading. If there is a reader's poll or an award for the best science writing of 2010, HSI has to be on the list of nominees.

Mar 22, 2010 at 12:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Mosher and Fuller get a very similar treatment on Amazon (and the same kind of responses to the negative criticisms)

Mar 22, 2010 at 12:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Scrase

there is a comment about "Monckton's Bishop Hill blog" at Real Climate some time ago from someone called Mark.

Remember yeah_whatever from the Richard Black blog? The very same.

It appears that he is still easily confused.

P.S. Enjoyed the book.

Mar 22, 2010 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterWansbeck

Your book is really good. Our book got 2 negative reviews on Amazon before it was even available for sale. Marco is just a troll--don't worry about him, he's very much a known commodity.

The important question is, what are you doing for an encore?

Mar 22, 2010 at 2:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom Fuller

Well, there are 24 five-star reviews, which by any measure, is impressive and well deserved. But one of them ("Fellman"), while 5-stars, is actually negative. Is it perhaps an experiment, to see if some "reviewers" are mindlessly clicking through the list to praise 5-stars (and on the American side, condemn 1-stars), or vice-verse. If so, you Brits showed you were paying attention. Only 2 of 25 find that review helpful. Well done. You folks read BEFORE clicking.

On the American side: Well I am seeing nine 5-stars and two 1-stars. It's great to have lots of 5-stars, but the 1-stars (with nothing in between) are interesting too - almost always indicating an IMPORTANT book.

But - stars don't matter much - they are kind of silly. It's what the reviewers say.

Mar 22, 2010 at 3:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernie Hutchins

Andrew, enjoyed your book. Hope you will write more, especially on the issue of how carbon emissions trading will benefit Al Gore, Obama, and their cronies.

5 truths about AGW* I hold to be self-evident:

1) Al Gore says we need to ask ourselves some tough questions about AGW, but when Al Gore gets asked some tough questions about AGW, Al Gore tells security to get tough with those asking the questions.

2) AGW proponents must have belonged to a cult of house painters in their previous lives because they have a predilection for whitewashing. Michael Mann inquiry? Whitewash. UEA inquiry? Whitewash. IPCC independent inquiry? Whitewash. Further note how AGW proponents believe that painting all our rooftops white will reflect sunlight and help mitigate AGW.

3) AGW is really about global cooling because it is the ultimate snowball: using middle-class taxpayers money to fund the lies that will create the policies that will tax middle-class taxpayers even more to fund even more lies that will create the next wave of policies to further tax middle-class taxpayers even more etc.

4) For some reason, AGW scientist-advocates are all scared shitless for at least a week when they hear the name "Steve McIntyre". Which is a good thing, because that means less AGW-causing methane gas is released and helps to offset the bullshit coming out of their mouths.

5) Incredibly, everything wrong in our world can be traced back to AGW. Birds shrinking? AGW. Snowstorms? AGW. Drought? Hurricanes? Famine? Poverty? Violence? Glaciers melting? Polar bears dying? All caused by AGW. The truth is, Al Gore is solely responsible for all of these problems, especially for killing the polar bears. He really is. Because Al Gore created AGW. Remember to tell your kids.
*AGW = Al Gore's Wallet.

Mar 22, 2010 at 4:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Z.

Frank O'D

Please just read the frigging book before commenting at all.

You may choose to find the hockey stick 'not a key point', but to my mind the real underlying value of the book lies in the subtitle 'Climategate and the Corruption of Science'.
And it makes a very cogent case that, for the hockey stick story at least, there is strong evidence of what I might charitably call 'shady dealing' from some leading players.

And there are 270 documented references for you to check to your hearts content.

Mar 22, 2010 at 5:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterStirling English

I bought and read the book before posting my favourable review on

Mar 22, 2010 at 6:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan Gay

Bishop - I must congratulate you on your excellent research and most carefully balanced treatment of the whole sorry affair and its offshoots. It shows yet another example of turf wars between those not worthy of the name "scientist" and the independent challengers who dare to question their academic behaviour and presuppositions in the interests of getting at the truth. I was delighted, as an Aussie, to receive your book quickly and quite cheaply from Amazon. It deserves to be read objectively by our own Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO warmists, who, in many cases, are hiding behind their unassailable PhD qualifications in order to browbeat the public and those doubting politicians.

Mar 22, 2010 at 6:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterVin Charles

In response to a couple of points made above:

I've read Spencer Weart, and indeed cite him as a source. He's telling a different story to me though, so Bart's recommendation as an alternative is a mistake.

Very chuffed to have Matt Ridley endorse the book.

I don't know what the follow-up is going to be - there are two global warming books and one non-global warming book that I'm considering. My main problem is that I'm much busier in the day job at the moment, so I'm going to struggle for time.

Mar 22, 2010 at 7:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBishop Hill

The importance of Mann's Hockey Stick is its entry into urban myth. i.e: More important than its ACTUAL veracity is its PERCEIVED veracity, in the minds of the general public. THSI does a comprehensive "snopes" on that urban myth, and thus is essential reading for rational thinkers.

Mar 22, 2010 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH

I think SimonH has it spot on. I agree that in the overall scientific debate it is of much less importance and was effectively demolished by the excoriating Wegman report (which North subsequently agreed was also the conclusion of the NAS review).

However the Hockey Stick is crucially important to one of the AGW narratives, i.e. the battle for hearts and minds in which it has iconic status, hence its centrality in the Al Gore polemic and the continued attempts to try to resurrect it.

Mar 22, 2010 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Those 1 stars are sterling examples of what I think is one of the most striking things about alarmist mores. How they love to inculcate amongst themselves a culture of disengagement with the essense of their opponents points, they seem rather to hug themselves with glee if they think they have found any alleged 'bias' or 'influence'; any error no matter how small in reality, is claimed to undermine an important plank of their opponents argument.
Clicking on BVs sight above I see DeepClimate laughably dismissing Pielke Jrs work and saying he hasnt read it, and he gets a free pass there. Wondeful.
I think this explains their current floundering, once they've accepted this culture they leave themselves no mental tools to deal with subject without haveing to rely on the worst playground rhetoric.
I think it will happen that there will be some decent alarmist arguments coming along, eventually.
Just be ready, when/if they start sounding reasonable, to spot the warnings that they may innately despise their interlocuters, one clear test is for that is for them to treat their interlocuter serious enough to even read their points.

Mar 22, 2010 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

I have read the book, thought it an excellent and illuminating read but have not provided a review for Amazon.

The significance of the story is that the Hockey Stick has been widely used to promote the AGW thesis (Gore film, UK school text books to name but two) and has helped undermine trust in the work of the climate scientists. The loss of trust is fatal for any group of people or institution. The rest of us will no longer believe them. Politicians are the prime example right now in the UK. Climate scientists now jockey for position with estate agents and tabloid journalists to be next in line.

No wonder the Royal Society is going to run a seminar on the subject of uncertainty. Some how they have to get themselves out from under the mess they are all in. So far the deus ex machina ploy (with the RS as deus) has not worked.

Mar 22, 2010 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Glad to see this so I can give my compliments - I got the book 3 or 4 weeks ago from on a Friday - spent the weekend reading as I couldn't put it down at all!

There are no reviews there yet at all, so that's my next project. I think I'll read those at first, as I may get some inspiration there (not being a very good book reviewer myself)!

Eventually, I'll make an order from so that I also can review there - there's another book I'd also like to review - at least counteract some of the 1s (also a controversial book). Since postage from the U.S. is rather expensive, I'll have the books sent to my sister a while before I finally visit (it's been 7 years now) so she can read them first. The problem is instant gratification.

In fact, the order I made (to get over €20 so no P&H) was when The Crutape Letters turned up there. Unfortunately, I got an e-mail saying they had to delete it - it was unfortunately undeliverable. So I guess I'll have to wait til I get Stateside, unless I break down and do the electronic version.

Once again, Bishop, a truly fantastic book. Thank you!

Mar 22, 2010 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterKendra

What I find strange is that out of 24 5star reviews and no reviews other than these 5star reviews, 4 out of at least 84 people found the reviews unhelpful. How can consistent 5star reviews be unhelpful? Unless of course you suffer from cognitive dissonance and don't like the message.

Mar 22, 2010 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip, you are exactly right. Until recently I was an uncritical believer in AGW. A friend challenged me and I started to read about it both pro and anti. I changed my mind. Frank and many warmists fall into the category of "My mind is made up, please do not confuse me with the facts!"

At least my review was based on reading "The HSI" twice. Frank's view is based on not reading it. What conclusion would an impartial observer come to?

Mar 22, 2010 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hewitt


My review was also based on reading THSI twice. The book is factual, not propaganda, so no-one should object to reading the facts.

Mar 22, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip, It is entirely possible that they were looking for some enlightenment on the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Mar 22, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Any criticism or praise for that matter on Amazon is entirely spurious as there is absolutely no requirement that you read the book in either case.

My advice is to "treat those impostors just the same" with respect to Kipling's poem IF

Mar 22, 2010 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Harrington

I have read the book and, as a PhD in relevant science and C.Eng., I thought it was rather good. Not a polemic, but soundly reasoned science. It was also very interesting to follow up on the Amazon reviews and comments, I hadn't known that the growth of AGW fears coincided with Enron, Lehman Bros, and others realising that there was a fortune to be made from Carbon Trading, nor that Enron sponsored Kyoto and partially paid for Al Gore's vice-Presidential campaign.

Mar 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterLiam

Feel free to delete this, but based on a back and forth at Tom Fuller's blog months ago, I suspect that Marco is actually Tamino.

Mar 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

By the way, aren't you due for an update? Amazon is listing the book at 12.24.

Mar 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

26 five star reviews! Yay!

Mar 22, 2010 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

As it happens I managed to secure a pre-release copy of a Sarah Palin book (I'm a fan) during the US election (one of those rushed-to-publication jobs) and negative reviews were appearing before the book was released for sale. Speaking of that type of book, I'm just finishing "Climategate; the Crutape letters" by Mosher & Fuller. Interesting perspective, covers some of the same ground as THSI, but has some other interesting tidbits, too.

THSI deserves multiple awards. I need to read it again.

Mar 23, 2010 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Interesting feedback about Amazon reviews regarding a different author. I'm posting not about the other author, but about the similar frustration experienced with regard to amazon's review policy.

Mar 23, 2010 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Should have added quote from article:

...describing the one-star reviews as “nothing more than collective bullying..."

Mar 23, 2010 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

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