Equations, Daly and all

Correspondence received

Dear John,

 I have only just discovered your fascinating site, "Number Watch".

In particular, I was mystified by your problem with the equation

"mr = mr(.....)" apparently quoted from the Times in:

  http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/2003%20June.htm

This looks like a perfectly reasonable equation to me (far from it seeming "to make the leading terms on both sides of the equation cancel", I assume that the equation simply indicates that "mr is a function, as described on the right-hand side of this equation").

If you think the equation is "such a complex arrangement of summation and exponentiation" as to be "absurd", then doesn't this possibly suggest that you have had little experience of complicated equations? Could you please also justify why you think that "any attempt to apply the equation would be chaotic" just because "none of the coefficients could be known with any precision" (and why, in turn, do you say this when you admit that you don't know the definitions of the terms?). It all sound a bit like the hand-waving stuff that passes for scientific argument in "Still Waitingfor Greenhouse". Speaking of which, I would be glad if you would consider, in the interests of intellectual honesty, including a link to: 

  http://www.trump.net.au/~greenhou/

 which answers some of the excesses of John Daly's site.

Regards,

John Hunter

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Reply

Thank you for your comments. It is useful to air these controversies. You raise two main points, which I will deal with in order.

Equations

You will have to take my word for my experience with complicated equations, unless you want to trawl through forty years of the scientific literature for the 150 or so papers, books and chapters I have published. I spent much of my early career shooting them down. For a brief period in 1969 I worked in the University of Grenoble on electrohydrodynamic instability, involving simultaneous non-linear partial differential equations of odd order, which is as complicated as you can get. Even in the great majority of measurement applications in the physical sciences I would stand by the statement “Even without knowing the definitions of the terms, anyone with mathematical training should recognise this as completely worthless.” In a flocculent field such as economics I would claim it as a masterpiece of understatement. As for the notation, I merely marked it as odd. As far as I am aware, there are virtually no coefficients in economic theory that are known with any precision. When you start summing them and raising them to strange powers, the errors in a few coefficients will outweigh the contribution of the rest. That is why any attempt to apply them would be chaotic. Such manifestations are used by the priesthood to overawe the innumerate and semi-numerate.

 

 

Here is an example of my mathematical work of   37 years ago (click for full size). I include it not out of pride, but out of embarrassment. It is mathematically correct and, I believe, elegant, but pure persiflage. At the time, I was too shy and insecure to make the simple one sentence statement that was required. That sentence would read “These buffoons have reached an absurd conclusion by committing the most elementary blunder in statistics, equating the square of the mean to the mean of the square.” To compound the vagueness, there was a misprint in the last paragraph (τ for r) that reduced the argument to nonsense. They did not have author proof reading in those days.

I know it is boring, but I feel better for getting it off my chest. Nowadays I don’t give a damn about calling a spade a spade, and I try strenuously to avoid mathematical misdirection.

 Daly

 I have examined the link you gave. It would take many pages to discuss “What’s wrong with what’s wrong with waiting for greenhouse.” But here are a few thoughts.

Compare and contrast

We are invited to accept the IPCC report, and particularly the Summary for policy makers, as the Holy Writ and reject the Daly contributions as Apocrypha. What I see is a bunch of hypocritical Green politicians and bureaucrats getting up to all sorts of dishonest shenanigans to foist an economically damaging myth on a gullible world, contrasted with an honest jobbing lone scholar with limited resources trying to establish that there is an alternative view. They ask “Which would you rather believe?” I reply “Daly!”  The alterations made to the IPPC report, in particular, are tantamount to downright fraud.

John Daly gets many things wrong. I am prepared to make allowances for this, as he is a lone amateur scholar. I make no allowances for the likes of CRU, with 40 staff and millions of pounds of taxpayer money. 40 was our number of the month for August 2001 in their honour.  The likes of Daly have as opposition not only the whole of the “scientific” establishment, but also the whole of the media establishment. Times Newspapers and the BBC, for example, go in for large scale ratchet reporting of warm weather and completely ignore devastating examples of cold. They also cold-bloodedly fake their charts, as O’Ronain and Daly cogently pointed out. Why, if they think they are right?

An example of where Daly is unconvincing is in the discussion of the recent (admittedly ludicrous) claim that global warming has increase the height of the tropopause. His counting of half cycles is based on the fallacy of assuming that the start of the measurements is the start of the signal. In fact the authors had chosen the peak of the forcing function as their start point. A more cogent criticism could be based on the fact that a system of large inertia will show a response phase lag when subjected to a cyclic forcing function.

He made a mistake over the photograph of a submarine and withdrew it. How many withdrawals have we seen from his opponents? The curve from an arbitrarily fitted empirical formula for the urban heat island effect is also rather silly. I waive the right to comment on the Tasmanian tide gauge controversy, as I don’t understand the manipulations in any of the papers. As for any arguments based on unverifiable computer models – flummery!

 Cherry Picking

From the point of view of a Popperian, those who produce isolated examples that do not conform to a theory are perfectly entitled to, while those who produce them to back up their theory are not. Every contrary example is a nail in the coffin of a theory. That is the scientific method, falsification, performing critical tests to try to disprove the theory, not grubbing around for any shred of evidence that appears to support it. Not only John Daly, but also CO2 Science produce a contrary example every week. The greatest enemy of scientific progress is orthodoxy.

 Linear regression

I have made my views known on the dangers of fitting straight lines. In any finite sample there is always a linear trend, even if it does not exist in the population from which it is drawn. Having looked critically at dozens of situations in applied physics, I accept the principle that is implicit in the writings of Daly and others that If you can’t see it, it ain’t there!

Fitting straight lines to graphs contributes little to scientific knowledge. I will give an example from experience. Some forty years ago I gave a research seminar in which I reviewed some of the conflicting theories for conduction in dielectric liquids (Thermionic, Fowler Nordheim, Shottky, ionisation etc.) They all involved exponential functions with allied logarithmic test plots and exotic fractional indices. I showed that all of them produced respectable linear plots, which like the published experimental data, supported the validity of all the theories. At the end of the seminar I revealed that I had “manufactured” the data by adding Gaussian noise to a simple exponential function.

There are three crucial questions related to global warming

  1. Is it happening?
  2. Is the effect large enough to be measurable
  3. If so, is it caused by human activity?

The answer to the first is probably yes, as the earth is still colder than during the mediaeval warm period and has probably not recovered from the little ice age. The answer to the second question is moot, but if the proponents are so sure they are right, why do they feel the need to go in for so much misdirection, selection and fraud? The answer to the third is not known and perhaps never will be, but the vague possibility does not merit the election for economic suicide.

As for the link that purports to tell how to evaluate web sites, crap! All it says is believe the establishment and no one else. In contrast to Daly, it lauds a web site of the EPA. In Sorry wrong number! I have given many examples of clear EPA fraud. Here is the opening of my section on that particular organisation:

EPA

“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”
Lewis Carroll  – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

In any discussion of contemporary fraudulent science these three initials come up over and ever again. I do not wish to be misunderstood in my judgment of the activities of the EPA . They are professional cheats and liars. They have committed multiple crimes against the integrity of science. They have debauched the statistical method. In the case of Environmental Tobacco Smoke  alone they used a method (meta-analysis ) that was, to say the least, dubious. When that did not produce the right result they reduced the statistical confidence limit  to a level that has never been used in respectable science. After all that they produced a risk  ratio  that has never been regarded as significant in any previous statistical study. As for their claims of cause, even properly conducted statistics  has nothing to say about causation. That is a total of four counts, each of which on its own would knock out the EPA’s claims. Virtually every scientific group in the USA that has contributed to this farrago of lies is heavily in their pay. The Harvard School of Public Health, to take just one example, receives a donation of $3 million a year from the ever-generous taxpayers of the USA via the EPA. This school not only provides many of the bullets for the EPA guns, but its members also launch ferocious attacks on other scientists for daring to hold rational meetings to discuss the issues. On top of all this the EPA is intent on spreading its rot around the world. In one year the total of 106 foreign grants by the EPA was $27,806,509, including $1,200,000 to communist China. Good old American taxpayer ! That’s another ten cents to add to all the dollars that he pays to prop up junk science .........

 

John Brignell

July 2003

Correspondence received