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Tobis on Science Bias

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorDecember 5, 2009 10:26 AM


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I've said it before, I'll say it again: Michael Tobis is among the most thoughtful climate bloggers out there. To really appreciate him, you have to see how his arguments unfold in the comment threads of his posts. His latest post and related thread is a perfect example. I am certain some of his most loyal readers are utterly dismayed by it. Which is why I find Tobis so fascinating. So in this latest thread he gets into an eye-opening exchange on science bias with one regular reader, who seems to be trying to steer Michael back to a politically correct (climate advocate) position for political reasons:

But I do encourage you to clarify your thoughts as much as possible. You never know when someone will quote you to the effect that you think there is a strong case Mann and Jones suffered from "unconscious bias", which is a possible, even plausible, interpretation of what you said. So please fix or clarify that, before Morano gets hold of it.

Tobis doesn't oblige:

I think that walking on eggshells to avoid giving ammunition to the bad guys is a corrupting influence. In the end plays into their hands more than inadvertently giving them the juicy quotes to beat you up with.

In that very same comment, Tobis also offers this gem about the CRU hacker affair:

Scientific speech and political speech are very different beasts. The current situation tangles them up. I am trying to figure out how to disentangle them. I am not sure how.

That's what I love about his blog. Sure, he's got his convictions on climate change (especially what he regards as the moral imperative to act), which he is unafraid to convey. But he also struggles with the complexities of the science and the best way to communicate them, which he often articulates with refreshing candor. Many of the people he admires are shrugging off "climategate" (yes, I don't like the term either) as "a tempest in a teapot" or an "artificial" scandal. Not Tobis. He recognizes it's much more than that, and to his credit, he's trying to figure out how to engage it. UPDATE 1: In an update to his own post, Tobis says I have misunderstood the meaning of his post. UPDATE 2: In a comment below, Tom Yulsman takes up the gist of Michael's post more thoroughly than I have, and is inclined to agree that I'm reading too much into Michael's words.

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