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« A cartoon week - Josh 237 | Main | Consensus? What Consensus? »
Tuesday
Sep032013

Benestad et al rejected

The Benestad (Cook, Nuccitelli) et al paper on "agnotology", a bizarre concoction that tried to refute just about every sceptic paper ever written, has been rejected by Earth System Dynamics

Based on the reviews and my own reading of the original and revised paper, I am rejecting the paper in its current form. The submission is laudable in its stated goals and in making the R source code available, but little else about the paper works as a scientific contribution to ESD. While I think as an ESDD publication at least a discussion was had and the existence of the R routines has been brought to the attention of the various interested communities, the manuscript itself is not a good fit for this journal and would need substantial further revisions before being ready (if ever) for this journal.
Which is all fine and well, but then you get the paragraphs below, which seem to me to be almost as strange as the Benestad article itself:
The root logical flaw in many of the papers discussed in the appendix is that showing a statistical correlation between some non-CO2 variable and some observed climate time series somehow disproves the hypothesis that CO2 is a driver of climate change. This is as silly as saying the cost of my sneakers is correlated with how fast I run and therefor I have invalidated the hypothesis that training makes me run the 100 yard dash faster. Do we really need 70 pages of text and two dozen R routines to recognize the logical problem here?
And therein lies the real problem. The climate science community has strong theory (dating back more than a century) and good, physics-based models that underly the attribution and prediction endeavors and these guide the interpretation of observations and their statistical characterization (i.e. what the null hypothesis is). If one ignores that foundation as most of the studies being criticized in this submission do, then one is left with unconstrained statistical analyses or curve fitting exercises that have no clear plausible, physically viable explanation. The reality is that many of the authors whose work is being criticized are on the record as thinking that either climate theory and/or climate models are fundamentally flawed, hence the adopt the kind of approach which leads them to conclusions that are in opposition to the vast majority of climate scientists. Again, this can be said in two sentences
Not having been on the end of many editorial decision notices myself I'm perhaps not best placed to say how normal such a stream of conciousness is in scientific discourse. But it seems very odd to me.

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Reader Comments (54)

I think the first thing is to welcome the fact that the paper has been rejected, and to note some of the critical comments from Huber:
"The problems are several fold"
"The long, didactic introduction is not appropriate for this journal and all the meat of the paper is currently in the appendix which is a strange place for it. Indeed, as currently structured ... there is no actual science... in the main body."
"written in an inflammatory and insufficiently supported fashion"
"much of that characterization relies solely on the authors’ stated opinion"

Regarding your question of whether such behaviour is normal from an editor - no it isn't. The normal procedure would be for the editor to write a brief decision summarising the reasons for rejection, which should come from the reviewers comments, not from the editor's personal opinions. But we know from the climategate emails that climate science does not follow normal editorial procedures. But then this journal is not normal, in the way it allows a free-for-all discussion, and the paper is not at all normal.

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I wonder if Benestad invoked the fatally flawed paper he wrote with Gavin Schmidt on solar variability to assist in the dismissal of "statistical correlation between some non-CO2 variable and some observed climate time series"
http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/nicola-scafetta-comments-on-solar-trends-and-global-warming-by-benestad-and-schmidt/

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

What's not to get?

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug McNeall

Suggested rewording for 1st sentence of 2nd box:
"The root logical flaw in many of the papers PROMOTING CAGW is that showing a statistical correlation between [ ] CO2 [ ] and some observed climate time series somehow PROVES the hypothesis that CO2 is a driver of climate change"

I agree that the greenhouse gas foundation is solid, but models based on it, alas, are not. And no, correlation does not imply causation, ad that applies also for correlations between increasing CO2 and any other variable.

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterparotia

From the abstract:

Replication is an important part of science

Doesn't this just confirm Cook's paper & Manns papers are refuted?

And since no GCM is able to replicate any other GCM, aren't they all proven to be BS by this paper?

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMangoChutney

It sounds like placation. Translation: 'You're GREAT guys and on the side of the angels, but we had to reject this paper because it's utter cobblers. However, the stuff you tried (and failed) to pick holes in is even worse cobblers. Please don't hit us.'

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

In a nutshell, Huber says: The papers you critique are too stupid to pay attention to.

ESD was my plan B for my Cook critique. Was.

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Basically the editor is saying "this is a Social Science paper and has no place in this journal".

I do, however, like the section


Second, much of the discussion in the appendix is written in an inflammatory and insufficiently supported fashion. Removal of subjective characterization would make the paper stronger by reducing the verbosity and of more lasting value by focusing on scientific issues. It is entirely irrelevant whether the authors of some papers also distribute pamphlets to school headmasters, just as it is scientifically irrelevant what the political affiliation or religion or hair color of authors are.

Delightfully direct.

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

For, the precious shrinking violets at Earth System Dynamics:

the Benestad (Cook, Nuccitelli) et al paper - is pure BS, all concocted by a bunch of fruitcakes who know loads about domestic bliss confection but not much, if anything about pure science.

I think I covered it for you, feel free to plagiarize and copy all you like - a forte I believe - of all alarmists.

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Richard Tol has it right-

"In a nutshell, Huber says: The papers you critique are too stupid to pay attention to."

Just so.

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris y

I Liked this part:
"Third, while much is made that so-and-so made mistakes, much of that characterization
relies solely on the authors’ stated opinion. While I agree that demonstrating how
results may differ based on various choices with the R routines is useful, it generally
(except in the case of coding errors) does not reveal mistakes. Instead it reveals how
different choices lead to different results. It is really up to individuals and communities
to determine that something is a mistake (or something that otherwise contributes to
continued ignorance). Let me emphasize this point since it goes to the heart of this
paper. I see very little in this paper that actually demonstrates real flaws in prior work."

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarcel Crok

Surely, this paper on agnotology has been rejected because its lack of science/credibility.

The supreme irony.

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

The climate science community has strong theory (dating back more than a century) and good, physics-based models that underly the attribution and prediction endeavor...

"Good" for what? Certainly not good for predicting the reality of observed temperatures.

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterbladeshearer

The definition of "agnotology" suggests that it is best applied to the majority of climate "science" papers.

Sep 3, 2013 at 2:56 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

Wikipedia: "[agnotology] also highlights the increasingly common condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before".

Aka the IPCC

Sep 3, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I'm not in a position to say whether that's a normal rejection letter since I've hardly ever had a rejection. :)

Still, I've learnt something, since I'd otherwise have guessed that ""agnotology" was something to do with sheep.

Hang on a mo', .....

Sep 3, 2013 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

So what he's saying is that since we already know CO2 causes global warming, any paper that shows warming correlates better with something else must be wrong. Furthermore, people who doubt the role of CO2 arrived at this view first and then wrote their papers to support their view. They didn't arrive at their view on the basis of their work.

Would that be about right?

Sep 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

"good, physics-based models" that always overestimate warming.

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

So there's cake for both sides. But one side's cake is quite a bit tastier than the other's.

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss McKitrick

So what he's saying is that since we already know CO2 causes global warming, any paper that shows warming correlates better with something else must be wrong.

No he's not saying any such thing, as I suspect you know. He's saying that any paper that shows warming correlates better with something else does not disprove that CO2 may be causing warming. Which is incidentally an argument ongoing between Lucia and Bob Tisdale on her site (sort-of).

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Given that editors usually try to be at least moderately polite when rejecting contributions, this sounds like coruscating stuff. The “hair color of authors” remark is a splendid put-down.

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamesp

"And therein lies the real problem. The climate science community has strong theory (dating back more than a century) and good, physics-based models that underly the attribution and prediction endeavors and these guide the interpretation of observations and their statistical characterization "

Interpretation: Let the tail continue to wag the dog. (Pretty Please).

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

"I wonder if Benestad invoked the fatally flawed paper he wrote with Gavin Schmidt on solar variability to assist in the dismissal of "statistical correlation between some non-CO2 variable and some observed climate time series"
http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/nicola-scafetta-comments-on-solar-trends-and-global-warming-by-benestad-and-schmidt/"

Speaking of fatal flaws, has it escaped Tallbloke that the papers most cited in Scafetta climate papers are climate papers by Scafetta,?

Both may find this discussion of orchestrated and orgiastic self-reference germane .

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Agnotology is a good word indeed. I seem to be losing my fight with my own ignorance. For a while I was hoping the problem was simply ignorance and not stupidity, but then ...

I'll have to adopt this in place of anosognosia, which may be inherently inapplicable to one's own condition.

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:37 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Have a look at this
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/03/cooks-97-consensus-disproven-by-a-new-paper-showing-major-math-errors/

"A major peer-reviewed paper by four senior researchers has exposed grave errors in an earlier paper in a new and unknown journal that had claimed a 97.1% scientific consensus that Man had caused at least half the 0.7 Cº global warming since 1950."

Sorry but can't figure out how to show this quote with blue text.

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

There is evidence that the right hair color helps with all sorts of things, but not with getting your paper accepted in a journal.

Sep 3, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

What about the right hair style?

Sep 3, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

A strong theory dating back more than a century! It is not a theory, it remains an unproven hypothesis. The more time that passes, the more that the hypothesis is dead in the water. We need some proper physics, not pseudo-science.

Sep 3, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Oh my.. This makes me proud of my fellow Norwegian scientists

Benestad and Hygen have daytime jobs as researchers at the meteorology institute. I wonder if they are paid to produce research of this quality.

Anyway, the back-and-forth communication between Benestad and Jaap C. Hanekamp is enjoyable.

In terms of education I will definitely use this manuscript in my philosophy of science
classes, whether published or not, but not in the way the authors might have envisioned
it. It can only be used as an example of how some scientists maltreat very elementary
aspects of understanding and doing science. It shows that universities should require
far more of their students with respect to arguments, reasoning (logic), and evidence.
This paper fails utterly on all three counts.

Sep 3, 2013 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterEksperimentalfysiker

Sorry, jferguson (Sep 3, 2013 at 4:37 PM), but I cannot find any definitions of the two words in my online Oxford dictionary. The first has been explained; what about yours?

John Peter (Sep 3, 2013 at 4:55 PM), that was a problem I had for a while until someone pointed me to the clues below the comments box (so as not to confuse the machine, I shall replace < or > with *); start with *blockquote* and finish with */blockquote* – which also explains why so many finish sarcastic comments with /sarc!

Sep 3, 2013 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Who wants to guess how long it will be before this 'paper ' does find a happy little home , despite its many problems , as given its supports 'the cause ' its actual quality means nothing .

Sep 3, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

A June post at RC discusses this paper. They mention having previously submitted it elsewhere(evidently a couple times) and also having it rejected.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/06/a-new-experiment-with-science-publication/

Sep 3, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBob Koss

cut to its essence, the editor's rejection is equivalent if not identical to the Bish's concluding remarks about the 97% rubbish.

Cook remains a failed cartoonist and Nutticelli a paid propagandist. They wouldn't be able to recognise science if a Piltdown Man original HD video were sent to them.

The real cretins are the Editors that have allowed through their garbage until now.

Sep 3, 2013 at 6:57 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"Climate Science". Helping to keep the unemployable employed.

Sep 3, 2013 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Agnotology.. agnotology?! Authors don't want to be understood in the first place. And they win.

Sep 3, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

John Peter

Type the word blockquote with < > at each end

then write your quote
and end with the word

blockquote
again with </ before it and > afterwards

and press preview to make sure you've got it right.

Sep 3, 2013 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

As a Norwegian I'm familiar with Benestad's MO.

I think Craig Loehle's comment goes to the heart of the problem, which is Benestad's self-appointed status as guardian of the Truth:

Overall, the manuscript is simply a litany of complaints about papers the authors don’t like. Yet in no case do the authors bother to truly refute anything, they simply argue that this or that “might” have a problem or uses a method they disapprove of. They are essentially requiring the reader to take their word for it that these papers are wrong. But science, to paraphrase the Royal Society’s motto, “takes no man’s word” for anything. Everything should be demonstrated. I do not recognize these or any other scientists as having the authority to dismiss mine or any work on their say-so.


PS Messenger: That helped me also. Thanks.

Sep 3, 2013 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBebben

Anosognosia (Lack of Insight)

When a person cannot appreciate that they have a serious psychiatric illness ...

To put it crudely, not realizing that one is nuts. i worry that i could be and that the people I interact with are humoring me.

But there is also the possibility that they don't see it either. the world is a very big place.

Sep 3, 2013 at 10:17 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

"... good, physics-based models ..."

Kind of like those movies that are "based" on a given novel, but bear little or no resemblance to it. I'm thinking particularly of some Ian Fleming titles like "For Your Eyes Only", "Octopussy", or "Quantum of Solace." Really just short stories in the Bond canon from which the only content drawn upon was the title itself. All huge disappointments, just like CAGW.

Sep 4, 2013 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterBart

1. The poor Editor might have included the words about "good physics" in order to avoid having his name added in next iteration of Benestad's mentally ill paper

2. I can state without fear of being contradicted that Cook and Nutt suffer of aiscophilia, the (genetic?) predisposition for getting oneself entangled in scandal after scandal. Perhaps they're related to the Windsors.

Sep 4, 2013 at 1:16 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Notwithstanding that the submitted paper is crap, I thought that the editor's response was rude and unprofessional. It is quite possible to write a letter to someone saying no, and why, without being gratuitously offensive (I know, I've drafted hundreds of them for Ministers to sign).

It reads more like a blog rant than a response from a professional editor to a would-be contributor, no matter how daft the material under discussion is.

Sep 4, 2013 at 1:39 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

The rejection rationale isn't odd at all. It is in fact better than most. When someone wants a paper out, anything sort of one's mother is dragged through the mud.

Sep 4, 2013 at 2:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

The root logical flaw in many of the papers discussed in the appendix is that showing a statistical correlation between some non-CO2 variable and some observed climate time series somehow disproves the hypothesis that CO2 is a driver of climate change.

The grammar is lacking here. The passage needs to make it explicit that the papers employ such a rationale; somewhere around where "is that showing" needs a re-write.

If that's typical of the grammar found throughout then I can see the journal trashing it purely on the grounds that they don't want to be seen publishing kiddie scienze.

BTW, the grammar in this post isn't relevant - I'm not publishing in a journal!

Sep 4, 2013 at 4:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveA

If Benestad is the one from Norway. He has no problem with defying reality, facts, logic and scientific principles in order to promote his policy based results?
Let him perform and he will do more damage to his political agenda than the whole Sceptical blogosphere can do in a year?

Sep 4, 2013 at 7:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

"I think the first thing is to welcome the fact that the paper has been rejected, and to note some of the critical comments from Huber:
"The problems are several fold"
"The long, didactic introduction is not appropriate for this journal and all the meat of the paper is currently in the appendix which is a strange place for it. Indeed, as currently structured ... there is no actual science... in the main body."
"written in an inflammatory and insufficiently supported fashion"
"much of that characterization relies solely on the authors’ stated opinion"

Regarding your question of whether such behaviour is normal from an editor - no it isn't. The normal procedure would be for the editor to write a brief decision summarising the reasons for rejection, which should come from the reviewers comments, not from the editor's personal opinions. But we know from the climategate emails that climate science does not follow normal editorial procedures. But then this journal is not normal, in the way it allows a free-for-all discussion, and the paper is not at all normal."

Like Scientific America's attack on Bjørn Lomborgs book Sceptical environmentalist. 6 pages with opinion and claims that everything is wrong but not one single scientific argument what is wrong.
Like a mega huge hamburger without beef?

Sep 4, 2013 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

As one of the author that Benestad et al. (2013) wanted to demonstrate "wrong" I am pleased that the editor reject Benestad paper. He could not do otherwise given the strong rebuttals written by me

http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/4/C312/2013/esdd-4-C312-2013-supplement.pdf

and by numerous other people
http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/4/451/2013/esdd-4-451-2013-discussion.html

who have highlighted numerous physical, mathematical and logical errors in Benestad et al. work.


The additional comments of the editor are, however, odd and simply demonstrate his strong bias and prejudice. He clearly has not read not understood the criticized works.

In fact, none of the criticize works claim such naïve thing such that

"that showing a statistical correlation between some non-CO2 variable and some observed climate time series somehow disproves the hypothesis that CO2 is a driver of climate change.."

Or the editor is biased, of he simply does not know that nobody questions that CO2 is GHG and can contribute to global warming. The issue is to quantify its contribution. This is not as certain, given the large uncertainty that also the IPCC acknowledge about the climate sensitivity parameter due to the huge uncertainty in the feedback mechanisms.


The comment of the editor is so naïve and based on a so evident straw-man argument that appears to me that, despite the fact that he could not but reject such a ridiculous paper, he simply did not want to appear to give even some credit to the criticized authors in having developed robust critiques to the IPCC AGW theory that Benestad et el could not efficiently rebut.

It appears that the editor is trying only to protect himself from a possible "revenge" that he fears from the AGW advocates by implicitly and strongly stating his own personal support for the IPCC AGW theory and that he fully agrees that criticism of the IPCC AGW theory would not be based on science. In fact, he knows well that AGW advocates have often attacked editors that have not fully endorsed the IPCC AGW religion.

It would have been much more professional if the editor had acknowledged that papers such as Benestad et al. one are not publishable without publishing also a response-rebuttal from the criticized authors. Essentially, as Legate et al. (2013) say: "partisan presentations of controversies stifle debate and have no place in education".

My latest published paper summarizing many issues is here:

Scafetta N., 2013. Solar and planetary oscillation control on climate change: hind-cast, forecast and a comparison with the CMIP5 GCMs. Energy & Environment 24(3-4), 455–496.

http://people.duke.edu/~ns2002/pdf/Scafetta_EE_2013.pdf

Sep 4, 2013 at 7:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicola Scafetta

What Benestad is claiming is that the UNFCCC politically established CO2 sensivity and the basis for models? And by thus all scientific papers and ideas that do not conform to this are invalid?
There is no room for science, only policy based science.

Sep 4, 2013 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

Critical theory by policy based science applied towards science?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_theory

Sep 4, 2013 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

The Critical Theory is interesting because i think it is used a lot by environmentalist and in the political War on Climate. The Critical Theory is simply critic of the Western culture, "establishment" etc etc... They tell you only what is wrong and nothing about what is right. Because they know that nobody would listen to them if they knew what is defined as "right"?

To Counter this one just have to demand them to tell more about what is the right path and less what is wrong?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_theory

Sep 4, 2013 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

I thought that the editor's response was rude and unprofessional. It is quite possible to write a letter to someone saying no, and why, without being gratuitously offensive (...)
Sep 4, 2013 at 1:39 AM johanna

Agree 100%.

Journal editors have to deal regularly with articles from deranged people or which are completely outside the scope of the journal. Editors normally do this with professionalism, explaining in a way that even the deranged author would find acceptable, why the paper is not suitable for their journal.

Sep 4, 2013 at 8:56 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

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