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« Beeb responds | Main | Steig's method massacred »

Simon says...?

I wonder what Simon Singh makes of the latest findings of the climate numpties?

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Reader Comments (35)

If he only knew the length of the history of this kind of gaffe from the statistics-disconnected climate worry-warriers.

Feb 8, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Any suggestions where we should look or are you looking for pointers yourself? My guess is look under his bed.

Feb 8, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

How about...

"This is the most bizarre thing I've heard yet. Is there really anything else to say?"

Feb 8, 2011 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterStu

"Would you like fries with that?- eric"

Feb 8, 2011 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Indeed. The dangers of name-calling swiftly revealed ;-)

Feb 8, 2011 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Oh yes. He really shouldn't have said that, should he?

Feb 8, 2011 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Proceed carefully. Coffee spill warning.

Skeptic Trumps

Feb 8, 2011 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Isn't Simon Singh an expert on Confirmation Bias?

Feb 8, 2011 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

never mind, the rothschilds will keep us better informed!

oh dear!

31 Jan: Earth Times: E.L. Rothschild LLC Acquires a Majority Stake in Weather Central, LP
NEW YORK - (Business Wire) E.L. Rothschild LLC, a private investment company led by Chairman Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and CEO Lynn Forester de Rothschild, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire a 70% interest in Weather Central, LP...
Terry Kelly, Weather Central's founder and CEO, stated: “Much has changed since we launched Weather Central more than 35 years ago, but our core passion for innovation, customer service, excellence, and vision is stronger than ever. The world today is facing major weather shifts due to climate change, and with an increasingly mobile population, the ability for consumers to obtain highly accurate and personalized information about the weather is more important than ever. With our scientific knowledge and technological edge, we've established a business that is top-ranked in the broadcast market. With E.L. Rothschild, the sky is the limit for Weather Central as we look to expand our success internationally and prepare to launch exciting new digital offerings for consumers.”...

1 Feb: Financial Times: EL Rothschild buys stake in Weather Central
In a statement, Sir Evelyn said that “as weather becomes more extreme around the planet, with greater human and financial ramifications, we believe that Weather Central will play a major role in mitigating damage and improving lives”.
Asked whether the investment was a bet on climate change, Lady Rothschild said: “Whatever your politics are about what is causing it, clearly weather is becoming a greater and greater factor for commodities, for corporates as well as for individuals...

Feb 8, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

If the response given by his great mate Dr. Ben to a question I posed to him about Glaciergate is anything to go by, he'll just shrug it off...

DougieJ said,
February 14, 2010 at 9:27 pm
Hi Ben,
I’ve been away on a desert island for the last few weeks.
Anyway, I’m back now and I thought I’d pop in here to just, y’know, see if anything of note has happened on the climate change issue while I’ve been away.
I’m sure it hasn’t, after all the issue is settled beyond all doubt (as an overwhelming majority of scientists overwhelmingly agree), but just in case I’ve missed anything, can you update me?

Ben Goldacre said,
February 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm
Hi DougieJ,
while you were away, a man who works in an organisation wasn’t very stylish about correcting a small error.

Feb 8, 2011 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

So all we can heat is the tweeting of the tweedy birds? :)



Feb 8, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Maybe he'll do exactly what Katie Melua did: change the lyrics of his song to show that he is good sports for once, and revert back later.

Astronomers and their strong support for climate science is quite puzzling. I would have thought the astronomers would demand greater precision from climate scientists, especially if catastrophe is predicted. It doesn't seem to occur to likes of Simon Singh and Phil Plait that climate science might be repeating the historic error committed by astronomers, when the latter put the Earth in the center of the universe for two thousand years.

What a numpty repeat mistake that would be on the part of astronomers, if it turned out that solar factors have greater influence on the Earth's climate variability than the CO2 in the atmosphere!

Feb 8, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

The mistake that Singh and others make is assuming that all branches of science are at the same level of skill and knowledge.

Feb 8, 2011 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes


Amusing. Thanks.

Feb 8, 2011 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Simon Singh doesn't think anything about it, because Simon Singh doesn't know about it. It's that Cognitive Dissonance thing again, isn't it?

Feb 8, 2011 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Re Robinson @10:13pm on cognitive dissonance: interesting artice with an apposite quote here:

Some years ago I participated in a test of applied kinesiology at Dr. Wallace Sampson's medical office in Mountain View, California. A team of chiropractors came to demonstrate the procedure. Several physician observers and the chiropractors had agreed that chiropractors would first be free to illustrate applied kinesiology in whatever manner they chose. Afterward, we would try some double-blind tests of their claims.

The chiropractors presented as their major example a demonstration they believed showed that the human body could respond to the difference between glucose (a "bad" sugar) and fructose (a "good" sugar). The differential sensitivity was a truism among "alternative healers," though there was no scientific warrant for it. The chiropractors had volunteers lie on their backs and raise one arm vertically. They then would put a drop of glucose (in a solution of water) on the volunteer's tongue. The chiropractor then tried to push the volunteer's upraised arm down to a horizontal position while the volunteer tried to resist. In almost every case, the volunteer could not resist. The chiropractors stated the volunteer's body recognized glucose as a "bad" sugar. After the volunteer's mouth was rinsed out and a drop of fructose was placed on the tongue, the volunteer, in just about every test, resisted movement to the horizontal position. The body had recognized fructose as a "good" sugar.

After lunch a nurse brought us a large number of test tubes, each one coded with a secret number so that we could not tell from the tubes which contained fructose and which contained glucose. The nurse then left the room so that no one in the room during the subsequent testing would consciously know which tubes contained glucose and which fructose. The arm tests were repeated, but this time they were double-blind -- neither the volunteer, the chiropractors, nor the onlookers was aware of whether the solution being applied to the volunteer's tongue was glucose or fructose. As in the morning session, sometimes the volunteers were able to resist and other times they were not. We recorded the code number of the solution on each trial. Then the nurse returned with the key to the code. When we determined which trials involved glucose and which involved fructose, there was no connection between ability to resist and whether the volunteer was given the "good" or the "bad" sugar.

When these results were announced, the head chiropractor turned to me and said, "You see, that is why we never do double-blind testing anymore. It never works!" At first I thought he was joking. It turned it out he was quite serious. Since he "knew" that applied kinesiology works, and the best scientific method shows that it does not work, then -- in his mind -- there must be something wrong with the scientific method. (Hyman 1999)

Feb 8, 2011 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop


A more recent numpty mistake by the Astronomers was to see canals on Mars when there weren't any. I find it ironic that A . E. Douglass, who worked for Percival Lowell until they fell out over the existence of the canals, then went on to invent dendrochronology,

Feb 8, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Presumably Singh will pop over to Real Climate to get the science he wants to read

Feb 8, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Shub, I'll play sceptic trumps with you, as long as I get Penn&Teller and James Randi, you can have Simon Singh :)

As for what Simon says after Steig's little outburst? He might find himself humming this little ditty:

Feb 8, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence


That's an interesting bit of sci-trivia ;-)

Mind you, to be fair, dendrochronology is not in the dock. Dendroclimatology is.

Feb 8, 2011 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"If the response ..."

Badscience is a strange site. There is some great debunking there but a huge blind spot WRT AGW. Quite a few screaming greenies and a lot of left leaners/hardcore lefties.

It's rather given itself over to introspection after some of the more unrestrained members libelled couple of people. Goldacre rarely drops in these days and only then to scold his minions. It usually gives them an opportunity to fawn over his magnificence.

Feb 8, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes

It is easy to be skeptical of homoeopathy, chiropractors and astrology...fossilized systems of human knowledge which leave organized questioning and skepticism at the door. It is difficult to keep skepticism going against things that incorporate such things, into their structure.

It is not good form or manners to waste skepticism on such affairs as astrology. The role of human ignorance and stupudity in knowledge is not even understood by those who do so.

I am just watching a Ben Goldacre video, he is giving a talk. He is attacking homoeopathy.

Where is the 'eureka' in realizing that homoeopathy is not a science?

Feb 8, 2011 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Loved the only two books, by Simon, that I've read. Code and FLT.
Watched, respectfully, from the sidelines as he put his money where his mouth was wrt Alternative medicine.
And then he goes comparing climate sceptics with "numpties"
From Hero to Zero. What a waste of a reputation. I don't care how poorly developed his climate tools are. Insults from ignorance are inexcusable from "respected" sources. I may be a climate numptie but only because of the behaviour of certain Climatologists who have proven to be chronic deceivers.
How sad Simon that you have uncritically and unthinkingly thrown your hat into an arena that threatens the way we live. How sad that I'll never purchase one of your books again.

Feb 9, 2011 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Well medicine in Goldacre's area. Homeopathy is available on the UK NHS. It's his noble cause to get homeopathy challenged using radomised controlled trials to show Joe Public that they're better off going to se a doctor rather than a quack.

He's calls various snake oil salesmen to account. He documented a laughable "trial" run in Durham where school children were fed fish oil tablets and were "shown" to have better intelligence than the control group. He also helped unmask Gillain Mckeith as a person who barely did anything for her PhD and enrolled his cat on the same course to show the level of ability needed to become Doctor at the the online site. I believe the cat was awarded a PhD.

He has his uses. Goldacre - not the cat.

Feb 9, 2011 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes

Doctor of Phurr-ology. Check the eyelid movement to differentiate.

Feb 9, 2011 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR


Feb 9, 2011 at 1:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

I would still maintain that the scientific reputations of folks like Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre, in as much they are accrued from their anti-chiropractic and anti-homoeopathic activities, are ill-founded and undeserved.

Singh's case is in reality, a larger issue of libel law in Britain, Goldacre's cause is a fallout of the UK NHS' conflicted attitude toward 'alternative medicine', which is in itself, an outcome of a larger problem - the current crisis in modern medicine. Both Singh and Goldacre are on the 'right side' of these issues no doubt, and they have been personally affected by their struggles no doubt, but the monster they are flailing against, is a tame and scared little puppy, wearing a big mask.

Feb 9, 2011 at 2:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I hadn't considered the matter in those terms. There seems to be some truth in what you say but you've perhaps gone further that I would. Picking on chiropracters and homeopaths does seem to be a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

The badcience web forums do rather evangelise about science to the extent that science as a process takes on a quasi-religious feel there sometimes. Peer review is treated as gospel even though within the realms of scientific enquiry it's a relatively recent phenomenon.

Feb 9, 2011 at 2:56 AM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes

How's this for a future scenario projection?

I've long thought that the Hockey Team would better off establishing a branch of the Feng Shui movement. I am sure that they would be highly valued in this new profession by liberal and enlightened home makers. The more enterprising (Mann, Gavin, Tamino, etc.) could establish a baffling PCA based analysis program which would enable them to rearrange peoples furniture for maximum energy transmittance, with guaranteed statistical certainty.

Then...Singh and Goldacre could safely take up against the team's mysticism, and everybody would be happy.

Feb 9, 2011 at 3:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Feb 8, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

A more recent numpty mistake by the Astronomers was to see canals on Mars when there weren't any. I find it ironic that A . E. Douglass, who worked for Percival Lowell until they fell out over the existence of the canals, then went on to invent dendrochronology,

I suspect that they were actually seeing the shadows of veins on their retinas. My intensive studies -- OK, a quick look -- showed blueish lines when I stared at a reddish blob on my computer screen in darkness, the pattern more visible after a couple of pints of homebrew. Couple that with a bit of groupthink and voila! Barsoom!

Isn't the Italian for tubes 'canali'?

who couldn't bring himself to write 'retinae'.

Feb 9, 2011 at 6:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Re Robinson @10:13pm on cognitive dissonance: interesting artice with an apposite quote here: (re testing homeopathy).

By a cruel twist of fate, some 20 years ago I was selected as the volunteer to spend an afternoon in front of about 80 medicos who were being taught the latest in acupuncture by a guru from Hong Kong. No needles, just a laser beam from a torch, shone in the general direction of the critical acupuncture nodes, however discovered and confirmed.

At day's end, there were several cross-congratulatory comfort talks. I asked if I could say a few words too and was granted audience.

I said that I was a long-time sceptic, a scientist well versed in experimental design and one who had done research in laser applications. (ooops!) As the recipient of the many pushes and probes and mystic shining of lights all afternoon, I had felt absolutely nothing detrimental or beneficial. I then asked if the laser beam and the acupunture knowledge was needed, because a person standing in a PUVA cubicle (rather like a sun tanning exercise) could in theory be cured of all candidate ailments in one hit, without the expert having to take aim with the laser lights, through whole body irradiation.

It was immensely satisfying to advise the medicos to save their money and reputations by spending instead on traditional double blind experiments.

Eventually, I convinced a few of them, ones who asked me to keep talking while others were trying to shut me up. Lamentably, many departed early, presumably eager to start with a new way to turn a quid.

Why had I been chosen as the test subject? Because of a perceived problem of my brain.

Feb 9, 2011 at 7:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington


The Martian canals mistake is peanuts compared to humanity's monumental, collective, multi-generational mistake that lasted for 2000 years.

Astronomers who trace the history of their profession always emphasise that the real science began when Galileo turned his telescope to the sky. That is not correct. The science of astronomy dates back to Aristotle, by whom the geocentric model of the universe was first properly and most persuasively articulated.

What began with Galileo was that astronomers adopted the heliocentric model of the universe as the real explanation for movement of the celestial objects. All they did was change from one model to the other. Other than that, they kept on observing, and recording and working on their science as they always did.

There was some speculation as far back as ancient Greece that it might be the Earth that's moving around the Sun. The main reason the geocentric model lasted for so long in the face of it was because it was beautiful. Simple, elegant and beautiful. And it worked. Indeed, it worked to death in the end.

I don't think the current global climate will have the same longevity. We may yet see Simon Singh and Phil Plait eating the old hat.

Feb 9, 2011 at 7:29 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

What a small world that we live in.

Just by following up the link on Fiona Fox's article covered by the Bish earlier there is further information on the Science Media Centre for which she is a Director.

The Science Media Centre published a report in 2002 entilted a Consultation Report:

Page 21 starts to describe THE BOARD and then lists
'The following people have been approached to join the SMC Board:'

Within the list of names appears:
Dr Simon Singh, Science writer and broadcaster

Further within the report we find:


and again Dr Simon Singh, Science writer and broadcaster

Haven't the time to further research if the involvement still continues but he was certainly there at the early stages.

Feb 9, 2011 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Lord B

IIRC he is still on the board of the Science Media Centre

Feb 9, 2011 at 9:26 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Lots of pies with fingers embedded!

Feb 9, 2011 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

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