As much as I love the professional climatologists who write RealClimate, they rarely let the anti-science crowd bait them into the kind of high dudgeon that makes PZ Myers or Tom Levenson so much fun to read.
Part of the reason for their patient tone is that most denialists are either too limited (e.g., Inhofe) or too mercenary (TechCentralStation, George Will) to absorb any correction. Since the debate opponent won’t even acknowledge that you exist most of the time, real climate scientists usually write for interested third parties. That is what makes the response from RC to the pseudo-denialist authors of Superfreakonomics (in truth, contrarians of the vanity kind that DougJ writes about), professionals with credibility to defend, so worthwhile to read.
I have very much enjoyed and benefited from the growing collaborations between Geosciences and the Economics department here at the University of Chicago, and had hoped someday to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. It is more in disappointment than anger that I am writing to you now.
I am addressing this to you rather than your journalist-coauthor because one has become all too accustomed to tendentious screeds from media personalities (think Glenn Beck) with a reckless disregard for the truth. However, if it has come to pass that we can’t expect the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor (and Clark Medalist to boot) at a top-rated department of a respected university to think clearly and honestly with numbers, we are indeed in a sad way.
No more excerpts. The whole post is great so go read it.
Spelled PZ Myers’ name wrong.
@AdamK: fixd. thanks.
No matter how stupid AGW climate deniers are, they always find new ways to become even greater asswipes – if their creativity was used to make electricity, this would generate one nano-amp for one picosecond
Of course the superfreaks will ignore this. Their claim is that anyone who disagrees with their obvious genius is hysterical, believing in superstition over facts. Thus there’s no reason to even bother their beautiful minds with evidence that undercuts their theses.
In other words, they act exactly like you would expect Chicago economists to act.
The map at the end of the article is a pretty sweet accent on a useful analytical exercise.
What stands in the way of genuine progress on climate change? Ignorance and greed. Changing how people think may be about as difficult as changing how they produce and consume energy, perhaps even more so.
I now want to go to UofC for geosciences just so I can study from this guy. That was awesome, I need a cigarette.
Shorter Superfreak: Oh my god! Do you know if you completely ignore a large part of the problem — the hard part — there’s a very simple solution! I’m a genius!
The answer is 2! Yes, there is the sqrt there, but have you ever thought it COULD be 2? I mean, are you saying there ISN’T a 2 there? But I can write that equation any way I like:
s q r t ( 2 )
There’s still a 2! Why are you arguing with me? Maybe this is why you haven’t solved the problem yet… and you are clearly ignoring my brilliant solution.
I happen to know two otherwise bright people who doubt that global warming even exists.
If they don’t accept the science by now, they’re beyond hope.
I just hope the deniers never gain power again.
The tone was pretty civil.
If books were treated to the scholarly standard, you’d see Steven Levitt issue a retraction.
Did Levitt respond to this anywhere? One of the problems of pundits and public intellectuals is that they rarely acknowledge a correction to their original writing, or worse, fall back on the nonsense claim that since they were only expressing their opinion, they don’t have to be correct about anything.
The other inconvenient truth lurking behind this exchange is the likelihood that some economists are bad at math, that is, they can’t do the math that scientists do. Pierrehumbert assumes that Levitt was lazy or couldn’t be bothered to get the math right, but it is possible that Levitt simply didn’t know how to go about framing the problem and then doing the math to solve the problem.
By the way, even worse than this are people like Andrew Sullivan who can’t even think like scientists do, and who insist on turning scientific questions into pointless philosophical reveries.
Bravo. By the time unleashes “academic malpractice” he has so completely devastated the book it seems like the mildest of rebukes, but I suspect in that world it’s like calling the pope an agent of the devil. When the pope is discovered to be an agent of the devil.
Like in any “debate” about evolution.
chronicallyterminally oblivious McMegan, who is so very useful on this topic.
Levitt responded in the comments to the article but doesn’t say anything substantive in my opinion.
@trollhattan: That was trash talk. ‘Academic misconduct’ is the term that pulls a trigger and starts a shitstorm.
Levitt certainly got pretty pissy in his response. Again he accuses anyone who disagrees with him of holding “religious” (ie, not anchored in reality) views, even when the entire post had very simple, impossible to argue with maths.
I’d be pretty pissy too if I was exposed as either stunningly ignorant or a complete fraud.
Of course, since Levitt is digging his heels in, look for him to end up at the AEI or Heritage or even Hoover at some point in the near future penning op-eds…
oh my blessed FSM!
Best. Smackdown. Ever.
In a just world, Levitt would be asked to resign or be fired for academic fraud.
The map was a nice touch.
That was great. The quality of scientific controversy has improved a lot in 5 years, though: https://balloon-juice.com/?p=6694
(I was doing a search on another topic and it came up)
Brilliant. Hot. Also.
(What? It’s a weekend. I don’t do math on weekends. I just note if a guy is hot or not. And, no, I won’t plot a curve of his increase in hotness. That would be objectifying. And math.)
Arguably one of the best parts about this whole thing is how Myrhvold has since suggested that his main point concerned how much energy is required to produce solar cells (Levitt hits on this in his response), vs. the whole emphasis the book places on them being black or only running at 12% efficiency.
They’ve been trying to suggest “Oh no, you all have it wrong, what we really meant is THIS!”. Pierrehumbert CRUSHES this idea in his response to Levitt, which really must be read to appreciate (see rapido’s link above). Levitt really screwed the pooch here, and he is going to be the laughingstock of the academic community for many years to come.
Oh, I’ve read Leavitt’s response. What a whingy prick that man is.
Wow, I wonder what other examples they could pick apart. Is there a list somewhere?
Damn, the dude was crushed in this example.
Huzzah for blind statisticians. (No, not literally blind.)
nice title post. accurate, too.
this will not have any effect on Levitt, except maybe for his next book deal. to me, this is just an example of academic hubris for the public. whether the public will remember is a different question.