Monday, March 03, 2014

Global Warming, Panda's Thumb, and My "Mann number" of ~2

I have said that I would try and avoid involvement in the "climate wars." It is not because I think that the issue is not significant- it is the greatest threat to civilization. I mean that unqualified. Nuclear war is grave, but is in fact more likely due to the impending climate crisis. It is just that I have a professional background related to evolution, and creationism that I lack in climate science.

None the less, last night I was reading Michael E. Mann's recent book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” (2013 Columbia University Press). And on page 142 (paperback ed.), he wrote about the inspiration for the climate change blog, RealClimate. It was The Panda's Thumb. PT is a science blog I helped start 10 years ago. The goal was to counter creationist fraud and lies.

It seems we helped with public education on global climate, if very indirectly.

Elsewhere, Mann joked about the "Mann number" similar to the Erdos, or "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." The idea comes about from an attack on climate science via a personal attack on Michael Mann. "Smoking" Joe" Barton (R-Tx) as the Chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee ordered an investigation of Michael Mann conducted by Edward Wegman. As part of Wegman's report was a "social network analysis" of Michael Mann's publication record with the intent of smearing Mann as having too wide a "personal network" to insure adequate peer review. This was also of particular interest to me as I had contributed quite a lot to personal social network analysis in my early career.

So, I recon' that I can get an approximate "Mann Number" of 2.


kanspaugh said...

Mr. Hurd, you should not isolate yourself from the climate debate simply because you are not a climate scientist. I'm sure you can contribute a lot by simply pointing out where the rhetorical tropes used by the global warming deniers are parallel to, probably derived from, those used by the evolution deniers. For example, consider how global warming deniers attempt to turn the tables on their detractors and accusing them of being religious zealots, followers of the "Warmist" cult led by the High Priest Al Gore. Do you not think they borrowed this trope from the Creationists, the latter accusing their opponents of being cult followers of Darwin, practitioners of the dark art of "Darwinology," etc.? In short, I think someone of your experience could cast a lot of light on the climate debate.

Gary S. Hurd said...

Thanks. I am of the sort of person who really needs to speak from expertise.

I suppose that is a weakness. There are plenty of grossly ignorant and foolish people perfectly willing to prattle on about the "lie of evilution." But, there is something in my personality that demands that I must be an expert before I comment publicly about science.

As you say, the climate denialists are of the same basic ilk as the creationists. I tried some climate discussion today, and was uncomfortable.

Kyle Splawn said...

Well as a long-time and avid reader of both blogs, I owe you a heap of thanks! I never knew about the PT connection with RC.

And I'll third the relationship of climate and evolution denialists. It's actually what got me hooked on the former, after keeping up with the latter for so many years. RC has fulfilled its mission of being like my PT for climate science (and SkepticalScience has served admirably in lieu of the TalkOrigins archive's Index for rebutting specific denialist claims).

Have you put up something about Wegman's attempted "personal social network analysis?"

Gary S. Hurd said...

Howdy Kyle,

I remember a guy in graduate school who did a similar study of co-authors in a field. The field was social network analysis in the 1970s. He found (IIRC) two nearly isolated groups who were sociologists, and anthropologists. The people identified as "leaders" in the field were the few who co-authored papers from "both sides."

Maybe I should look at the Wegman Report.