Between Scientists & Citizens

Ink blot test for climate controversy

with one comment

All right–here’s another test.  Look at the image at the other end of the this link, and take note of what you see.

That diagram was “leaked” in an article on a progressive blog; apparently it’s some part of an study of the publicity surrounding the CRU emails. Beyond dividing the world of climate controversy evenly into two territories, however, it’s not at all clear (even after more explanation) what exactly it’s supposed to represent.  What do these sizes, locations, connections mean?

Because the diagram is so ambiguous, it can act like a kind of Rorschach test.  The observer can project her own views onto it, seeing them as confirmed or not.  So I’m going to examine the reactions to this climate controversy ink blot among the people commenting on it at the leading climate skeptic blog Watt’s Up With That (WUWT).  Here’s one comment:

What an enormous load of …
No mention of Greenpeace or WWF on the supporter’s network.
But, what’s even more absurd, listing the small skeptical network in such a way that it seems to be equivalent to the likes of the BBC, Nature, the World Bank, et al. And the IPCC seems to be set apart as neutral?!! The IPCC, with links to every government pushing the AGW agenda?
Give me a break already! The skeptical network is a miniscule David next to the supporter’s huge Goliath network.

Over the next few posts, I want to understand this view–the David/Goliath fallacy–by placing it within the broader range of views expressed by the WUWT community.

Let’s face it:  one first reaction to the diagram just has to be to laugh.  Commenters noted that according to the diagram, Anthony Watts (editor of WUWT) has a lot on the ball, that skeptics have bigger balls, and that Al Gore has no balls (a joke that was “below the belt”), etc.  Other commenters expressed amusement that Roger Pielke, Jr. was at the center of the universe.  And several confessed mock outraged that their blogs hadn’t been included on the diagram, even as a “fringe blog.”  😦

Amusement easily transitioned into disdain.  One commenter described himself as astonished that the diagram “could pass for a study. What scientific purpose does it serve?” he asked.  Another described it as a “disgusting parody of a study.” Inaccuracies in the “study” or it’s purported representation in the diagram  were thoroughly explored:

  • No joke–many important players were seen as being left out.  On the “supporters” side, WWF, Greenpeace, the governments backing the IPCC, Wikipedia, Stephen Schneider, Tamino, Climate Progress, the CRU, and a whole host of climate study institutes, with their alleged funders (e.g. Deutsche Bank).  On the “skeptical” side, individuals like Monckton, Peiser, Inhofe; media such as Fox News and The Washington Times; blogs including Climate Science, ICECAP, and “at least 100 skeptical sites;” not to mention almost everything from Canada, India and the non-English speaking world.
  • Some of the ‘balls’ were said to be placed in the wrong position.  Several questioned the IPCC’s apparent neutrality, the “leftward” positioning of the blog Blackboard.  And a small debate ensued over which side of the diagram the Wall Street Journal really belonged on.
  • Links between the balls were thought to be missing–e.g., between the IPCC and Real Climate, or between WUWT and everything.  Several commented on an apparent factual error of connecting Geoffrey Lean with the Times, as opposed to the Telegraph.
  • The balls were criticized as being the wrong size, for example, “we see that Climate Depot is the same size as both the IPCC and BBC;  Treehugger and the World Bank share size two.”  In particular, it was argued that the diagram “should have all nodes sized in proportion to their respective funding,” so that “the BBC should be a massive bubble, dwarfing WUWT (no disrespect Anthony!) and Cimateaudit.”

In sum, many echoed this commenter’s thought:  those who drew the diagram “REALLY suck at their research.”  It was easy to make the next step, and tie the research perceived in this diagram to the “similar ‘scientific’ level’ of another research endeavor and a somewhat more famous visual.  “It looks like a hocky stick to me,” one person commented wryly.  Again:

[Comment] Hmmm…a Social Networking study that shows no social activity and no knowledge of networking…maybe they should be working in the Climate Science field?

[Reply] Funny or sad or both; not quite sure which.
One thing I DO know: NOT a surprise; i.e.:
You were expecting them to produce a methodical, documented, in-depth, objective research and analysis work product ??… NOT.

Or as another put it: “I’m sure this is based on a consensus and the science is settled. This appears to have been written and reviewed using the same stringent peer review methods as those used by the IPCC.”

These commenters are making a transition:  a transition from a focus on the diagram and the world it represents to a focus on the stances, practices and motives of those who produced the diagram–and thus indirectly, on the stances, practices and motives of those who are now examining it.

Their insistence on representational accuracy positions members of the WUWT community as backers of sound science (of a certain sort)–people insisting on reliable procedures and transparent communication.  By contrast, those responsible for the diagram were showing themselves as using sloppy or even biased procedures, and “middle school” communication–just like always, we can presume.

In this view, the diagram would be worthless as a representation of the way things are, but “actually useful” as a window into the representer’s minds.  As Richard North (whose efforts had been awarded several balls on the diagram) put it, “Sloppy …. veeeeery sloppy … but helpful if it shows the world as they see it!”

In the next post, we’ll look at how the WUWT community reconstructed their opponent’s “world.”

Written by jeangoodwin

March 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

One Response

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  1. The progressives do not allow posts they don’t like. So you won’t even be able to get the entire picture of what they think. You would have to look to sceptic sites to get their open opinions too.

    Several progressive posters on these climate sites seem to see racism in the inkblots. They don’t even know who the race or nationality of the person they are talking too.


    July 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm

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