Sunday, March 23, 2014

John Cook's Response to My Criticism

Looking down the comment section of another blog, I have just discovered a response by John Cook to my criticism. He writes:
As lead author of the Cook et al consensus paper, I can demonstrate how David Friendman ginned up a false contradiction by quoting me out of context. Here is the full line from the Bedford & Cook paper:
Of the 4,014 abstracts that expressed a position on the issue of human-induced climate change, Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 % endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.
To generate the 'contradiction', Friedman omits the first portion of the sentence:
Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 % endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.
I agree entirely with the OP's assertion of checking what writers say and see what their statements are based on. In this case, Friedman's criticism is based on misrepresentation of my original text. I find it extraordinary that Friedman accuses me of a deliberate lie while misquoting my work (deliberately? You decide). It is also ironic that a theme of this post is checking writing for falsehoods while uncritically repeating his misrepresentation.
That would be a legitimate response if my criticism had been of the fact that his 97% figure ignored the roughly two-thirds of papers that took no position on AGW. But, as anyone reading this can easily check from my earlier post, that is not what I objected to. My objection was that the 97% figure lumped together categories 1-3, when only category 1 fitted Cook's "main cause." Categories 2 and 3 were papers saying or implying that human action was a cause—"contributed to" in the language of the example. Category 1 contained 64 papers, or 1.6%, not 97%.

So Cook has indignantly responded to a criticism I did not make, ignored the criticism I did make, and offered a defense entirely irrelevant to the criticism I made.

Which leaves me with a puzzle—is he a rogue or a fool? Is he trying to mislead careless readers who, by the time they have gotten to his response, have forgotten what my criticism was? Or is he so incapable of reading and understanding criticism that he confused the point about the two thirds who expressed no opinion, raised by David Henderson in his piece commenting on mine, with my argument—which David Henderson accurately reported? Is he somehow unaware of the trick he himself pulled by pooling the three categories and reporting only the sum? It seems hard to believe.

One piece of evidence in favor of the rogue theory is that he did not post his response here, as one comment following his suggested. On the other hand, one piece of evidence in favor of the alternative is that he offered a transparently fraudulent rebuttal to my argument instead of remaining prudently silent.

Which suggests that he thought his response was a legitimate one.



27 Comments:

At 11:28 AM, March 23, 2014, Blogger Julien Couvreur said...

How do we know it is actually John Cook (not an impostor or his namesake) who posted this comment?

 
At 11:43 AM, March 23, 2014, Blogger Russ Nelson said...

I think you underestimate your own intelligence, and overestimate other people's. It's very kind and gracious of you to assume that he's not BOTH a fool AND a knave. You don't HAVE to choose between them.

 
At 1:02 PM, March 23, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

Julien:

Good question. It's clearly not just a namesake, from the contents of the comment. It could be an imposter.

But if so, and if Cook or his friends make any effort to keep track of online discussion relevant to them, Cook will see this post and be alerted to the imposture.

I don't think it likely--his comment went up most of a month ago, and if it was not his I would expect someone to have called his attention to it.

 
At 2:44 PM, March 23, 2014, Anonymous Max said...

"I think you underestimate your own intelligence, and overestimate other people's."

+1

The difference between the mental abilities of someone with an IQ of 115-130 and someone with an IQ of 145+ is difficult for most people to imagine, given the fact that most people engage in a fairly strong form of intellectual self-segregation. When dealing with individuals like Cook, it's only a moderate exaggeration to say that he might as well be talking about/to a chimpanzee.

 
At 6:22 PM, March 23, 2014, Anonymous Mark Bahner said...

Hi,

I responded immediately to John Cook's comments (I had the very next comments on that blog post). I wrote:

"You don't understand David Friedman's criticism. He says your characterization of your own paper is false, because the 97% includes three different bins of 'endorse AGW.' Two of those three bins--by your own paper's assessment--can not be characterized as saying 'human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.'"

"The best thing for you to do would to go to David Friedman's blog and respond directly to his criticisms."

The fact that he didn't I think provides evidence for John Cook's dishonesty, rather than his lack of understanding.



 
At 8:51 PM, March 23, 2014, Anonymous Jeff S said...

I'm not a law professor like you, Dr. Friedman, but doesn't "fraudulent" mean "intentionally false"? That doesn't quite square with your final paragraph.

 
At 10:04 PM, March 23, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jeff:

Interesting terminological point. I think I was personifying his response, describing it rather than him as transparently fraudulent.

And I still don't see a better way of saying it.

 
At 6:04 AM, March 24, 2014, Blogger Tibor Mach said...

Do you think most people actually make an effort of checking the web for articles or comments mentioning them in order to be able to respond to them? I know you do that and I agree that it is a sound strategy if you are indeed in a position where people frequently talk about what you post. However, my guess is that most other people don't do it. That is, if the comments section Cook is an imposter, the real Cook might never know.

There is one more possibility, most favourable to Cook - he was perhaps tired and misread what you wrote because of that. Because he misread it in a way that made him think you are making a false criticism, he felt compelled to reply...then he was perhaps not following the comments section and did not go back to the article again, so he never realized his mistake.

What I am trying to say is that you don't have to be stupid to sometimes make a very stupid mistake. Especially when it is about your work so perhaps some emotions are involved and you don't stop to think properly. It shows that someone is not prudent and sometimes talks before he thinks (which I personally do more often than I would like to), but not necessarily stupid. Of course, when you then realize your mistake, you should be courteous enough to admit it.

 
At 6:41 AM, March 24, 2014, Blogger dWj said...

Possibly because I have a poor memory, I'm a bit more sympathetic to him here, and am willing to put nonnegligible weight on the possibility that he saw a lot of criticisms, sort of mentally mixed them together, and forgot exactly which bits came from whom.

 
At 6:58 AM, March 24, 2014, Blogger Onlooker said...

I think that Cook's record of intellectual dishonesty (at best) with this paper and other work does not earn him the benefit of any doubt.

He's proven to be among the religiously zealous global warmists. He has a lot of reputation rehabilitation to do in order to earn credibility in the sciences, IMO.

 
At 9:31 AM, March 24, 2014, Anonymous Mark Bahner said...

Hi Tibor,

You write, "Do you think most people actually make an effort of checking the web for articles or comments mentioning them in order to be able to respond to them? I know you do that and I agree that it is a sound strategy if you are indeed in a position where people frequently talk about what you post. However, my guess is that most other people don't do it. That is, if the comments section Cook is an imposter, the real Cook might never know."

You're a very generous man. :-) Too generous, in this case. :-)

In this case, one of John Cook's coauthors (Dana Nuccitelli) later also commented on a separate post by David Henderson here:

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/03/16_not_97_agree.html

Dana Nuccitelli tried to claim David Friedman's claim had been "debunked". I responded (March 3, 12:31 PM):

Dana, you can not possibly "debunk" David Friedman's argument. It is irrefutably true.

John Cook, in his paper titled, "Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change: A Response to Legates, Soon and Briggs" made the following claim (on page 6): "Of the 4,014 abstracts that expressed a position on the issue of human-induced climate change, Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause." (Emphasis added.)

That is unquestionably a misrepresentation the Cook et al. (2013) paper, "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature," because only Level 1 endorsement ("Explicit endorsement with quantification") meets the criterion of stating that human emissions are the main cause. And only 62 abstracts (out of more than 3900) fell into that category.

No matter how much you and John Cook misrepresent your paper, that fact won't change. The appropriate thing to do, if you and John Cook actually cared about science--which it's pretty clear you don't--would be to acknowledge David Friedman's criticism as being correct, and change the paper titled, "Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning..."

Oh, and then you could go all through the Internet and try to correct your misrepresentations:"

This is false, no matter how often it's repeated

The fact that Dana Nuccitelli also never responded makes it pretty clear that they know that they have been misrepresenting their results.

Mark

P.S. I guess one could argue that maybe someone was also faking to be Dana Nuccitelli (in addition to the first person faking to be John Cook). But that's extremely unlikely, since Dana's name never even came up until he commented.

 
At 9:53 AM, March 24, 2014, Anonymous Mark Bahner said...

"Possibly because I have a poor memory, I'm a bit more sympathetic to him here, and am willing to put nonnegligible weight on the possibility that he saw a lot of criticisms, sort of mentally mixed them together, and forgot exactly which bits came from whom."

That's a possibility, but it doesn't explain why he never responded to my follow-up comment, wherein I said:

"You don't understand David Friedman's criticism. He says your characterization of your own paper is false, because the 97% includes three different bins of 'endorse AGW.' Two of those three bins--by your own paper's assessment--can not be characterized as saying 'human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.'"

"The best thing for you to do would to go to David Friedman's blog and respond directly to his criticisms."

The fact that he never responded to that comment, and never came to this blog to engage with David (Friedman) directly, provides evidence of his dishonesty.

P.S. John Cook also went to the National Climate Change Forum peddling his misrepresentations...and then never responded to my criticisms of his misrepresentations:

John Cook misrepresents his paper on the National Climate Change Forum

 
At 2:14 PM, March 24, 2014, Anonymous Gary said...

"is he a rogue or a fool?"

If he were a rogue, it would be very silly of him to bring any attention to your blog post at all. So I give him the benefit of the doubt.

 
At 3:17 PM, March 24, 2014, Blogger Tibor Mach said...

Mark: Well...maybe you are a double imposter who is trying to disgrace both of the authors! :) But seriously, I don't think an imposter scenario is likely and if Cook just confused several things together while reading the comments section like dWj suggested, or even if he simply did not read carefully and replied to something before thinking about it, he would have very likely found out (especially since even his colleague was a part of the discussion) in which case he would have had to correct his mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, I would say that even stupid mistakes...but what makes you a fool is not occasionally making mistakes but not admitting the other person is right when you realize it or when it is pointed out to you.

I am trying to give the benefit of doubt to people (people, not arguments) I a priori don't agree with and simultaneously try to scrutinize everything I a priori do agree with...I don't know if I am just trying or actually doing it, but I think it is a good idea to do that, because the natural (and easy) thing to do is the exact opposite.

 
At 3:39 PM, March 24, 2014, Anonymous Mark Bahner said...

Hi Tibor,

You write, "Everyone makes mistakes, I would say that even stupid mistakes...but what makes you a fool is not occasionally making mistakes but not admitting the other person is right when you realize it or when it is pointed out to you."

No, that makes him a rogue. :-)

Seriously...I've made many comments over at the Skeptical Science blog, and I think they misunderstand many things. But I also think they're actually dishonest.

I think even the paper itself shows dishonesty. I can't imagine why honest people would not have put the actual numbers for each of the bins in the paper itself:

(1) Explicit endorsement with quantification = 64 abstracts.

(2) Explicit endorsement without quantification = 922 abstracts.

(3) Implicit endorsement = 2910 abstracts.

4a) No position: Does not address or mention the cause of global warming

4b) Uncertain: Expresses position that human's role on recent global warming is uncertain/undefined

...the total for 4a and 4b combined was 7970.

(5) Implicit rejection = 54 abstracts.

(6) Explicit rejection without quantification = 15 abstracts.

(7) Explicit rejection with quantification = 9 abstracts.

I'm pretty sure that they didn't put the numbers for each of the bins into the paper because the results (~1.6% in bin #1) were terrible for the point of view they're trying to promote.

You conclude with, "I am trying to give the benefit of doubt to people (people, not arguments) I a priori don't agree with and simultaneously try to scrutinize everything I a priori do agree with...I don't know if I am just trying or actually doing it, but I think it is a good idea to do that, because the natural (and easy) thing to do is the exact opposite."

Yes, and that makes you better than "not-a-rogue". It makes you a good man. :-)

Best wishes,
Mark

P.S. You had some comments to me on an earlier post:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=19727420&postID=7150028477585603875

I hope to address them tonight or tomorrow. itc

 
At 4:04 PM, March 24, 2014, Blogger Tibor Mach said...

Mark: Well, there may be two reasons why someone does not admit he is wrong.

1) He wants to keep the people who cannot figure it out themselves in doubt...in which case he is a rogue.

2) He doesn't want to admit that he is wrong because he does not want to look like someone who can be wrong, he just can't swallow the bitter pill of admitting a mistake. That is childish and so that makes him a fool.

I am not sure which is worse. If Cook were 15, 2) would be ok. If he were 20, one could probably still close an eye. But I guess he is over 30 isn't he?

And thanks for the reply in a different post, I will check it out.

 
At 4:38 PM, March 24, 2014, Anonymous Mark Bahner said...

Hi Tibor,

You write, "2) He doesn't want to admit that he is wrong because he does not want to look like someone who can be wrong, he just can't swallow the bitter pill of admitting a mistake. That is childish and so that makes him a fool."

OK...that's an extremely charitable view of the situation. I think that makes him a rogue, because if he knows he's wrong and doesn't admit it, he's actually being dishonest. It's especially bad, because he wrote that David (Friedman) "ginned up a false contradiction by quoting me out of context." So at the very least, he should have removed that accusation by admitting that David hadn't done that.

Also, as I just wrote, it seems to me that the whole paper is fundamentally dishonest, because it doesn't give the numbers for each of the bins. If they were honest, I don't see why they wouldn't put in those numbers. It's not like it would have taken a lot of space in the paper. And it's not that they didn't have the numbers for each of the bins. The only possible reason I can see for not listing the numbers in each of the bins was that they wanted to hide the fact that there were so few papers in bin #1.

Best wishes,
Mark

P.S. I haven't written a response to your comments on that other blog post, but I hope to do it later tonight or tomorrow.

 
At 8:21 PM, March 24, 2014, Blogger Noah Siegel said...

The more important question is this: are major news outlets which have repeated the 97% figure incompetent or dishonest for not covering DDFr's findings?

 
At 6:53 AM, March 28, 2014, Blogger Mike H said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:55 AM, March 28, 2014, Blogger Mike H said...

@Noah - Partially incompetent, partially intellectually dishonest, partially succumbing to confirmation bias.

 
At 11:16 PM, March 29, 2014, Anonymous Chris said...

This is laughable. You make a straw man argument that his 97% figure ignores 2/3 of the papers, yet you yourself ignore the real purpose of Cook et al's paper. There are VERY few scientists who outright claim that AGW is not a part of our current climate model. Why? Because there is overwhelming evidence that anthropogenic forcing is one of the dominant factors in Earth's climate over the past ~50 years.

Read the literature, then try to make a logical argument. Are there unknowns in climate science? You betcha. Is there some conspiracy among climate scientists to dupe the public? Nope. Don't believe me? Go ahead and read the literature. Your conspiracy theories can only be held in ignorance of the facts.

Try http://www.realclimate.org/ for a start.

And while you're at it, have the courage to oppose Cook et al.'s findings in peer-reviewed article. Until you can make a real argument sans the logical fallacies, no scientist worth their salt is going to take you seriously.

 
At 9:19 AM, March 30, 2014, Blogger Mike H said...

Chris - Try again to understand David's arguments instead of assuming you know what they are.

Cook's claim was that 97% of papers find global warming was primarily caused by humans when the actual number is 1.6%. The 97% figure would be true if his claim was 97% found any influence from human activity.

It implies a deliberate attempt to greatly exaggerate the magnitude of the "mostly human" consensus.

 
At 3:25 PM, March 30, 2014, Blogger Peter van der Linden said...

So why doesn't David Friedman write a letter to the editor of the journal that reviewed and printed Cook's paper ""Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change: A Response to Legates, Soon and Briggs"?

That is the right way to correct a mistake. Not by conducting sniper fire from your own blog site.

 
At 3:49 PM, March 30, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

Peter:

I have provided all the information you need to figure out for yourself whether my argument is correct. Why don't you either show it isn't or concede that it is and stop trusting John Cook and his web page, instead of telling me how you think I should conduct the argument?

Are you unwilling to think something through for yourself? More interested in complaining about my breach of what you imagine to be academic protocol than in finding out whether one of the active spokesmen for your side of the argument deliberately lies?

 
At 3:52 PM, March 30, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

Chris writes:

"This is laughable. You make a straw man argument that his 97% figure ignores 2/3 of the papers"

It sounds as though you read and believed Cook's response without bothering to read the post of mine he was supposedly responding to. If you had done the latter you would have discovered that my argument has nothing to do with his ignoring 2/3 of the papers.

Supposing you actually care whether what you write, or what you believe, is true, you can find my post at:

http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-climate-falsehood-you-can-check-for.html

Read it.

 
At 4:50 AM, September 11, 2014, Anonymous Barry Woods said...

Social Psychologits Jose Duartes has taken a look at Cook et al, and has come away appalled by it.



http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/cooking-stove-use-housing-associations-white-males-and-the-97

http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/the-art-of-evasion


Also John Cook’s Consensus Project was intended to promote the 97% consensus to the public, a great deal criticism of the authors and the paper arose when the leaked Skeptical Science forum showed that the were planning the marketing of the result (the 97%) prior to the actual research. ie - criticism - a foregone conclusion, highly motivated confirmation bias?

http://www.hi-izuru.org/forum/The%20Consensus%20Project/2012-01-19-Marketing%20Ideas.html

one contributor saw this as an issue:

Ari Jokimäki


"I have to say that I find this planning of huge marketing strategies somewhat strange when we don't even have our results in and the research subject is not that revolutionary either (just summarizing existing research). I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't do this, but just that it seems a bit strange to me."

Yet the irony is, when the contributors at Skeptical Science and the Cook et al 97$ paper tried to actually define the object of the consensus for the project/paper (ie what the 97% actually agree about) they struggled to agree. They struggled to come up with a definition so that they could rate the abstract of the papers, struggled hard to avoid including sceptics in the definition and even John Cook acknowledged, 90% of sceptics agree in man made global warming (AGW) to varying degrees. (thus conceding sceptics not denying climate change, nor a potential man made contribution)

http://www.hi-izuru.org/forum/The%20Consensus%20Project/2012-01-24-Defining%20the%20scientific%20consensus.html

John Cook:

“So what I want is clarification - exactly what is "the theory of AGW" and practically how do we measure it? There are several approaches and all are problematic:

Humans are causing most of global warming. How we measure it, given most papers don't quantify, is to assume that when a paper endorses "AGW", then without any evidence to say otherwise, we assume they mean "most of global warming is human caused". This assumption might generate a lot of criticism.
Humans are causing global warming. Presumably this means any amount of warming equates to AGW and a rejection is to say "humans are causing no warming". This sets the bar so low, this will also generate criticism. 90% of deniers would probably say "some warming" but not much.

Humans are causing significant warming. This isn't clearly defined but seems closest to Ari's approach. By leaving himself some wiggle room, categorizing a rejection becomes more subjective. But given there's no standard of quantification, perhaps subjective and wiggly is the only option left to us?

Dana Nuccitelli – co author Cook et al:

“... I'm also confident the first criticism of the paper will be "I'm a denier and based on your definition, I endorse AGW", assuming our definition is any anthropogenic warming. If deniers fall into our 'endorse' category, that substantially weakens our result.”

The whole Consensus Project is worth a read. Especially the introduction, Marketing ad Defining the Consensus

http://www.hi-izuru.org/forum/The%20Consensus%20Project/

the entire leaked Skeptical Science forum has been put online here:
http://www.hi-izuru.org/forum

 
At 5:13 AM, November 04, 2014, Anonymous Thomas Watts said...

Are you implying that rogue and fool are mutually exclusive possibilities?

 

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