Why climate science is a textbook example of groupthink

In groupthink, organizations value consensus more than free thought. The emphasis on consensus leads to group polarization, in which a group’s positions become more extreme than any individual would come up with. Alarmist climate science is a textbook example of groupthink in action.

Guest post by Paul MacRae

A while ago, I received an email from a friend who asked:

How can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong about [global warming] (if your [skeptical] premise is correct). I don’t think it could be a conspiracy, or incompetence. …  Has there ever been another case when so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?

The answer to the second part of my friend’s question—“Has there ever been another case where so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?”—is easy. Yes, there are many such cases, both within and outside climate science. In fact, the graveyard of science is littered with the bones of theories that were once thought “certain” (e.g., that the continents can’t “drift,” that Newton’s laws were immutable, and hundreds if not thousands of others).

Science progresses by the overturning of theories once thought “certain.”

And so, Carl Sagan has written:

“Even a succession of professional scientists—including famous astronomers who had made other discoveries that are confirmed and now justly celebrated—can make serious, even profound errors in pattern recognition.”[1]

There is no reason to believe that climate scientists (alarmist or skeptic) are exempt from this possibility.

That leaves the first question, which is how so many “respected, competitive, independent science folks [could] be so wrong” about the causes and dangers of global warming, assuming they are wrong. And here, I confess that after five years of research into climate fears, this question still baffles me.

Climate certainty is baffling
It is not baffling that so many scientists believe humanity might be to blame for global warming. If carbon dioxide causes warming, additional CO2 should produce additional warming. But it’s baffling that alarmist climate scientists are so certain that additional carbon dioxide will produce a climate disaster, even though there is little empirical evidence to support this view, and much evidence against it, including a decade of non-warming. This dogmatism makes it clear, at least to those outside the alarmist climate paradigm, that something is very wrong with the state of “consensus” climate science.

There are many possible reasons for this scientific blindness, including sheer financial and career self-interest: scientists who don’t accept the alarmist paradigm will lose research grants and career doors will be closed to them. But one psychological diagnosis fits alarmist climate science like a glove: groupthink. With groupthink, we get the best explanation of “how can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong.”

Groupthink was extensively studied by Yale psychologist Irving L. Janis and described in his 1982 book Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes.

Janis was curious about how teams of highly intelligent and motivated people—the “best and the brightest” as David Halberstam called them in his 1972 book of the same name—could have come up with political policy disasters like the Vietnam War, Watergate, Pearl Harbor and the Bay of Pigs. Similarly, in 2008 and 2009, we saw the best and brightest in the world’s financial sphere crash thanks to some incredibly stupid decisions, such as allowing sub-prime mortgages to people on the verge of bankruptcy.

In other words, Janis studied why and how groups of highly intelligent professional bureaucrats and, yes, even scientists, screw up, sometimes disastrously and almost always unnecessarily. The reason, Janis believed, was “groupthink.” He quotes Nietzsche’s observation that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups,” and notes that groupthink occurs when “subtle constraints … prevent a [group] member from fully exercising his critical powers and from openly expressing doubts when most others in the group appear to have reached a consensus.”[2]

Janis found that even if the group leader expresses an openness to new ideas, group members value consensus more than critical thinking; groups are thus led astray by excessive “concurrence-seeking behavior.”[3] Therefore, Janis wrote, groupthink is “a model of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”[4]

The groupthink syndrome
The result is what Janis calls “the groupthink syndrome.” This consists of three main categories of symptoms:

1. Overestimate of the group’s power and morality, including “an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their actions.” [emphasis added]

2. Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations and stereotyped negative views of those who aren’t part of the group’s consensus. The group takes on a “win-lose fighting stance” toward alternative views.[5]

3. Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”; “direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes”; and “the emergence of self-appointed mind-guards … who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”[6]

It’s obvious that alarmist climate science—as explicitly and extensively revealed in the Climatic Research Unit’s “Climategate” emails—shares all of these defects of groupthink, including a huge emphasis on maintaining consensus, a sense that because they are saving the world, alarmist climate scientists are beyond the normal moral constraints of scientific honesty (“overestimation of the group’s power and morality”), and vilification of those (“deniers”) who don’t share the consensus.

For example, regarding Symptom 1, overestimation of the group’s power and morality: leading consensus climate spokespeople like Al Gore, James Hansen, and Stephen Schneider have stated outright that they feel it’s acceptable and even moral to exaggerate global-warming claims to gain public support, even if they have to violate the broader scientific principle of adherence to truth at all costs (http://www.paulmacrae.com/?p=51 has examples.) Consensus climate science also overestimates the power of humanity to override climate change, whether human-caused or natural, just as government planners overestimated the U.S.’s ability to win the Vietnam War.

Regarding Symptom 2, closed-mindedness, there are many cases of the alarmist climate paradigm ignoring or suppressing evidence that challenges the AGW hypothesis. The Climategate emails, for example, discuss refusing publication to known skeptics and even firing an editor favorable to skeptics.

Regarding Symptom 3, pressure toward uniformity: within alarmist climate science there is a “shared illusion of unanimity” (i.e., a belief in total consensus) about the majority view when this total or near-total consensus has no basis in reality. For example, the Oregon Petition against the anthropogenic warming theory has 31,000 signatories, over 9,000 of them with PhDs.

Climate scientists who dare to deviate from the consensus are censured as “deniers”—a choice of terminology that can only be described as odious. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explicitly aims for “consensus” in its reports—it does not publish minority reports, and yet it is impossible that its alleged more than “2,000 scientists” could completely agree on a subject as complicated as climate.

Group polarization
Janis notes one other form of dysfunctional group dynamic that arises out of groupthink and that, in turn, helps create even more groupthink:

The tendency for the collective judgments arising out of group discussions to become polarized, sometimes shifting toward extreme conservatism and sometimes toward riskier forms of action than the individual members would otherwise be prepared to take.[7]

This dynamic is commonly referred to as “group polarization.”

As a process, “when like-minded people find themselves speaking only with one another, they get into a cycle of ideological reinforcement where they end up endorsing positions far more extreme than the ones they started with.”[8] [emphasis added]

And because these positions are so extreme, they are held with extreme ferocity against all criticisms.

Examples of alarmist climate groupthink
Groupthink is common in academic disciplines. For example, philosopher Walter Kaufmann, a world-renowned editor of Nietzsche’s works, identifies groupthink in his discipline as follows:

There is a deep reluctance to stick out one’s neck: there is safety in numbers, in belonging to a group, in employing a common method, and in not developing a position of one’s own that would bring one into open conflict with more people than would be likely to be pleased.[9]

Similarly, in the 2009 Climategate emails, CRU director Phil Jones shows this “deep reluctance to stick out one’s neck” in writing (July 5, 2005):

“The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998.”

Keith Briffa laments (Sept. 22, 1999):

“I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the temperature proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. … I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.”

Elsewhere, Briffa notes (April 29, 2007):

“I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same. I worried that you might think I gave the impression of not supporting you well enough while trying to report on the issues and uncertainties.”

All of the above (there are many more examples in the Climategate emails) reveal scientific groupthink, which puts the needs and desires of a peer group—the desire for “consensus”—ahead of the scientific facts. We would, undoubtedly, find other examples of alarmist groupthink if we could examine the emails of other promoters of climate alarmism, like James Hansen’s Goddard Institute.

This groupthink isn’t at all surprising. After all, alarmist climate scientists attend several conferences a year with like-minded people (the views of outright “deniers” are not welcome, as the CRU emails clearly reveal). In the absence of real debate or dissent they easily persuade themselves that human beings are the main reason the planet is warming and it’s going to be a catastrophe. Why? Because everyone else seems to think so and, in groupthink, consensus is highly valued. The same principles operates strongly, of course, in religion.

The ‘hockey stick’ and groupthink
Climate alarmists will, of course, angrily dispute that climate science groupthink is as strong as claimed here. However, groupthink is clearly identified in the 2006 Wegman report into the Michael Mann hockey stick controversy.

As most WUWT readers will know, the Wegman report was commissioned by the U.S. House Science Committee after Mann refused to release all the data leading to the hockey stick conclusions, conclusions that eliminated the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age in order to show today’s warming as unprecedented. In fact, as mathematician Steve McIntyre discovered after years of FOI requests, the calculations in Mann’s paper had not been checked by the paper’s peer reviewers and were, in fact, wrong.

The National Academy of Sciences committee, led by Dr. Edward Wegman, an expert on statistics, identified one of the reasons why Mann’s paper was so sloppily peer-reviewed as follows:

There is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.[10] [emphasis added]

Wegman noted that the Mann paper became prominent because it “fit some policy agendas.”[11]

The Wegman Report also observed:

As statisticians, we were struck by the isolation of communities such as the paleoclimate community that rely heavily on statistical methods, yet do not seem to be interacting with the mainstream statistical community. The public policy implications of this debate are financially staggering and yet apparently no independent statistical expertise was sought or used.[12] [emphasis added]

In other words, alarmist climate scientists are part of an exclusive group that talks mainly with itself and avoids groups that don’t share the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis and alarmist political agenda. Overall, Wegman is describing with great precision a science community whose conclusions have been distorted and polarized by groupthink.

Recognizing groupthink
After the Climategate emails, some consensus climate scientists began to recognize the dangers of groupthink within their discipline. So, Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry wrote in 2009:

In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and “tribalism” in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process.[13]

Similarly, IPCC contributor Mike Hulme wrote:

It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.[14] [emphasis added]

In short, it is clear that groupthink—a later, more scientific word for “tribalism”—is strongly at work within alarmist climate science, however much the affected scientists refuse to recognize it. As a result of tribalism (groupthink), alarmist climate science makes assertions that are often extreme (polarized), including the explicit or implicit endorsement of claims that global warming will lead to “oblivion,” “thermageddon,” mass extinctions, and the like. Indeed, one of the ironies of climate science is that extremist AGW believers like Gore, Hansen and Schneider have succeeded in persuading the media and public that those who don’t make grandiose claims, the skeptics, are the extremists.
Group polarization offers a rational explanation for extreme alarmist claims, given that the empirical scientific evidence is simply not strong enough to merit such confidence. It is likely that even intelligent, highly educated scientists have been caught in what has been called the “madness of crowds.” Indeed, writing in the Times Higher Education magazine, British philosopher Martin Cohen makes this connection explicit:

Is belief in global-warming science another example of the “madness of crowds”? That strange but powerful social phenomenon, first described by Charles Mackay in 1841, turns a widely shared prejudice into an irresistible “authority”. Could it [belief in human-caused, catastrophic global warming] indeed represent the final triumph of irrationality?[16]

There is strong psychological evidence that alarmist fears of climate change are far more the result of groupthink and the group polarization process than scientific evidence and, yes, this alarmist groupthink has indeed led to the triumph of irrationality over reason.

Paul MacRae is the author of False Alarm: Global Warming—Facts Versus Fears. His blog is at paulmacrae.com. More on this subject: http://www.paulmacrae.com/?p=51

Notes
1. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 49.
2. Irvin L. Janis, Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982, p. 3.
3. Janis, p. vii.
4. Janis, p. 9.
5. Janis, p. 247.
6. Janis, pp. 174-175.
7. Janis, p. 5.
8. Andrew Potter, “The newspaper is dying—hooray for democracy.” Maclean’s, April 7, 2008, p. 17.
9. Walter Kaufmann, Critique of Religion and Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990 (1958), p. 51.
10. Edward Wegman, et al., “Ad Hoc Committee Report on the ‘Hockey Stick’ Global Climate Reconstruction.” U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2006, p. 65.
11. Wegman, et al., p. 29.
12. Wegman, et al., p. 51.
13. Judith Curry, “On the credibility of climate research.” Climate Audit blog, Nov. 22, 2009.
14. Andrew Revkin, “A climate scientist who engages skeptics.” Dot.Earth, Nov. 27, 2009.
15. Steve Fuller, Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science. Cambridge: Icon Books, 2006 (2003), p. 105.
16. Martin Cohen, “Beyond debate?” Times Higher Education, Dec. 10, 2009.

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172 thoughts on “Why climate science is a textbook example of groupthink

  1. I came across the following summary of groupthink in a recent book on communications, The book had nothing to do with climate at all, but the summary sure struck a chord:

    “High levels of cohesiveness and conformity in groups can interfere with the group’s ability to make decisions, effectively giving rise to a phenomenon called groupthink. Groupthink, a term coined by Janis (1982), refers to the susceptibility o a highly cohesive group to the danger of making poor and reckless decisions. A ypical groupthink culture is one that discourages alternative points of view because hey are seen as a threat to the group and its existing hierarchy.

    Groupthink symptoms include (Janis 1982):
    * excessive confidence: Too much confidence in the group’s ability and capacity for good judgment increases the likelihood of risky and poorly thought out decisions.
    * sense of invincibility: A sense of not being vulnerable to making mistakes leads to hastily proposed solutions becoming favoured courses of action without careful consideration.
    * anonymity: Groups provide individuals with a degree of anonymity and insulation against taking personal responsibility for decisions, so no one person has to take the blame when poor decisions are made.
    * moral superiority: This kind of self-righteousness can lead a group into becoming ‘a law unto themselves’, resulting in poor ethical decisions and behaviour.
    * obsessive rivalry: Decisions made solely on the basis of unduly negative attitudes towards others (including other departments) can blind a group and lead to poor decisions.
    * peer pressure: Pressure is exerted on those who tender views and options that conflict with the group’s beliefs in its ability, reasoning, viewpoints and existing hierarchy.
    * censorship: Gatekeepers withhold from group members information that may challenge the validity of the group’s direction, practices and leaders.”

    Mann, Jones, Gore, Hansen — stop fidgeting at the back there!

  2. OK, the null hypothesis is that it is we sceptics who are the groupthinkers and are deluded and not the climate scientists. The question then, is if we are so deluded by group think to believe we are right when the truth is that we just all share a consensus delusion, how would we know?

    Well having tried to bring sceptics in Scotland to a consensus about the climate … I can say its like “herding cats” we are still no where closer to consensus than when we started.

    1. Overestimate of the group’s power and morality
    Let’s me be honest, I personally wouldn’t support some sceptics except for this one issue. If anything, I think most sceptics underestimate our ability to act … if we would sacrifice a bit of the moral high ground and start acting as a group.

    2. Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations
    Personally I was resistant to the idea of solar activity. Now I’m open to the possibility that changes in land use have had more impact. If there is closed mindedness, it is that “warmists are bad”. As an ex warmist, I’ve been open about that and never had anyone seriously criticise me for it. That doesn’t strike me as being closed.

    3. Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”.
    The only “conformity” I find that we … I was going to say “not to say stupid things”, but sceptics are on the whole very tolerant. The pressure is to put forward good arguments.

  3. The question by the “anonymous friend” isn’t the important one. Anyone who has worked in or around any branch of science or scholarship knows of many bad theories that were, or still are, held by the majority of paid professionals despite being transparently wrong. That’s NORMAL.

    The important question is why this one theory about CO2 acquired the status of a worldwide religion and took over ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING for twenty years. No other belief of any sort, right or wrong, political or religious, has ever gained such TOTAL AND COMPLETE worldwide POWER. Not Christianity, not Islam, not Communism, not Fascism. Those were all regional, moderate and arguable compared to the CO2 theory.

  4. The addition of toxic Fluoride is a great example of group think.

    As are most of the vaccination programs. How many doctors who carry out the vaccinations know the statistics of efficacy and harmful effects of the vaccine they give their patients? Answer: Hardly any. Most just rely on the “group-think” (and of course the bonuses they get -at least in the UK- for pushing the vaccine!).

    The Milgram experiment is the classic study of this area. You could do a lot worse than to search for “Zimbardo Stanford Prisoner Experiment” in google videos. He covers the Milgram experiment.

  5. Absolutely! I have long held the opinion that climate science is exactly that. Human group think. We will endevour to make global warming a truth, until it gets colder then that will be the new truth. Not sure how long the CO2 myth will last though.

  6. While many of the points you make are valid, I think it is a pity that you conflated scientific groupthink with political examples. Political decisionmaking is a very different animal – indeed, it is the application of political models to science that caused a lot of the trouble in climate science.

    Political groupthink is a different phenomenon to the changing of scientific paradigms, although they share some features. Politics is overtly a contest of beliefs and ideals, while science is supposedly a contest of testable and replicable experiments to support or disprove a hypothesis.

    I suspect that using the Vietnam War as an example will get you a lot of grief in the comments. The fact is, whether one believes it was a good idea in policy terms or not, if the US had expended its full military might, it could have ‘won’ the war quite quickly. The unwillingness to do that was a political, not an objective, judgement.

    The notion of ‘groupthink’ is, as you point out, also described as tribalism or, in other pop psychology models, in-groups and out-groups, or the madness of crowds. It was hardly a new idea. What is interesting is the growth of social movements such as environmentalism, and how they affect the actions of people in other spheres such as politics, science and the media.

    Another dimension is the growth of ‘evidence based policy’, which is often a synonym for finding researchers who support what the political actor wanted to do in the first place. Instead of saying, ‘we will do this because it is right’, they say ‘we will do this because scientists or other researchers tell us that it is right’, thereby avoiding some of the responsibility if things go wrong.

    The need for internal cohesion in organisations is not the same thing as the need to preserve contestability in the wider world, whether it be in politics or in science. In politics, contestability is achieved through democracy. In science, it is preserved by adhering to the scientific method, which is the opposite. They are very different phenomena, and groupthink does not adequately describe either of them.

  7. If you look at a high altitude picture of most University Campuses, the buildings look like boxes. I will propose that the people “inside of those boxes” think that they are “outside of those boxes”. I can state this strongly since I was “once up a time” inside the boxes.

    One can NOT get a degree without a successful PhD dissertation in your field. You will be pounded until your square edges are gone and you fit “into the round hole” [box?]. No matter what the field, your dissertation will fail if it doesn’t “fit”.

    Today I am proposing a thermodynamic technique that will remove the constraints of Carnot’s Law. I hope that they will let me “into the box” to make my proposal. [Post dissertation, I guess I’m a scientist now !?!?]

  8. The group think is quite frightening though. Humans now have the ability to seed the atmosphere with dust, the oceans with metal particals, or their food with birth control.

    The current group think is that humans are bad for planet Earth

  9. While one can see the effects of groupthink on climate science, I have to question if there is not more too it than that. Add to groupthink the fact that there is enormous money to be made due to the poor decision making by government that is enabled and encouraged by the climate science mythology.

    Did the founders of Solyndra really believe in what they were doing? Or did they just seen an opportunity to siphon millions from the public coffers by saying that they did? (And yes, they went bankrupt, but they got paid handsomely on a personal basis). The intro to one of the IPCC reports gushes over what a wonderful document it is….and the person quoted runs a company that manufactures windmills that would be totaly uneconomical without massive government subsidy. And let us not let the IPCC itself get a free pass on the matter. Without AGW fear, they, and their jobs, would cease to exist. The entire UN for that matter continues to inflate itself and reach for more power and funding despite being an abject failure in terms of the goals they were set up to pursue. Empowered to “save the children” in Iraq by trading oil for food, they promptly gamed the system, lined their own pockets, then investigated and exhonerated themselves. Did those leaches believe they were saving anybody? THEY COULDN’T HAVE CARED LESS!

    Climate Science may have been initiated and enabled by groupthink, but it is maintained, and agressively so, by corruption and greed. I doubt that very many of those who have profited from ill thought out government subsidies, gauranteed loans and huge grants to build completely uneconomical solutions to a non existant problem really care (or believe) in the issue one way or another. They see an opportunity for profit, and they behave accordingly.

  10. The ‘Comfortable Clone Syndrome’ is used in business teachings to counter group-think. If more of the alarmists had worked in real jobs rather than in only in academia, perhaps they would be able to identify and counter these issues.

    Most organizations understand the benefits of having a diverse workforce. We know teams who have diverse members with complementary skills are more creative and innovative than homogeneous teams. Comfortable clone syndrome is the desire to surround ourselves with people who think and act like we do to avoid conflict and the discomfort of being around others who are simply, in our eyes, strange and difficult.

    Diversity is more than just age, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. It includes personality styles, individual strengths and talents, work experience, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. In 1997, Dorothy Leonard and Susaan Straus wrote the Harvard Business Review article, “Putting Your Company’s Whole Brain to Work,” where they introduce the concept of creative abrasion. This is the ability to tap into the diverse talents and expertise of every person on the team in a way that maximizes productivity, drives results and generates positive work relationships.

  11. And here I thought the consensus was driven by people in the field looking at the evidence and deciding what conclusions were supported… with the occasional dissenter objecting.

  12. MB says:
    April 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm
    The addition of toxic Fluoride is a great example of group think.

    As are most of the vaccination programs. How many doctors who carry out the vaccinations know the statistics of efficacy and harmful effects of the vaccine they give their patients? Answer: Hardly any. Most just rely on the “group-think” (and of course the bonuses they get -at least in the UK- for pushing the vaccine!).

    The Milgram experiment is the classic study of this area. You could do a lot worse than to search for “Zimbardo Stanford Prisoner Experiment” in google videos. He covers the Milgram experiment.

    **********************************************

    Begone, troll, and your sad attempt at inserting junk opinions to see if anyone agrees with you.

  13. Another word for groupthink is arrogance.

    Groupthink is just too p.c. for me. I say call a spade a spade. AGW is simply a group of professionals who are too full of themselves to ever admit they were wrong … or, look at data that contradicts their findings. If you’ve every spent any time in academia, you already know how over-inflated the egos of researchers can get.

  14. Groupthink is a way of understanding what is going on here, as it is with the Vietnam War, Watergate, Pearl Harbor and the Bay of Pigs — although other particularities of the denial and decision and in-decision that led to these disasters require explanation beyond incompetence or conspiracy. These have to do with the pursuit of vested interests of individuals and groups, baptist-and-bootlegger analysis and so forth. These ways of explaining are required to answer the question: Why did groupthink prevail so strongly in these instances and not others?

    In Science, Groupthink relates to more general older notions such as ‘paradigm’ (Kuln) or ‘episteme’ (Foucault), and right back to Marx’s “Ideology” — which relates groupthink to vested interests. Notice that we only complain about Groupthink when it goes wrong for the interest group. Marx could point to bourgeois groupthink, as I could point to west society groupthink, where ‘incredibly stupid’ thinking and decisions serve our interests very well without adverse impact. But for us here on this blog, I think, the question is more refined: Why is it happening in Science? Why now? and Why with this issue?

    There has certainly been groupthink in Science before. In fact, I would say that it is both natural and endemic to scientific communities. And it has been duly recognised. And so for 300 years now Science has developed protocols, practices and institutions to mitigate against groupthink getting out of control and overwhelming the advancement of science. What is surprising, and surprising about currents events, is that it has never before corrupted the institutions of science so fully and pervasively (although your quoted Sagan gave us some hits of how it might with ‘Nuclear Winter’!). The question for Science is: How did this corruption succeed in this case, at this time, and on this issue.

    Aynsley Kellow, in his notion of “Virtual Corruption,” early on came up with a way to understanding this. It is also, in my view, important to understand the infiltration of the Marxist practice (praxis) of science-as-activism (‘Thesis 11′), and how this has come across from the social sciences mostly via environmental science (including in the notion of ‘post-normal science’) as the fear campaigns of environmentalism developed in the broader community.

    Other ways of understanding what has happened here are discussed in a previous WUWT post:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/27/climate-change-and-the-corruption-of-science-where-did-it-all-go-wrong/

  15. 40 years ago I was on a station responsible for a massive electronic navigation system with hundreds of vacuum tubes and dozens of drawers of circuitry. We had a 99.95% up time goal and when we went to back ups due to an online failure all hell broke loose. The entire duty section was called out to trouble shoot.

    Group think always took over until exhaustion set in. Then I could work on the system alone and usually fix it while the exhausted took a coffee break. It was fascinating to see the consensus negotiations that took the group think further and further from the problem.

    I don’t work well with others I guess.

  16. The other aspect to this ‘consensus’ of a huge number of scientists involved in IPCC reports, is that most of them are not pure ‘climate scientists’ at all, but epidemiologists, oceanographers, agricultural scientists, glaciologists etc etc, whose research starts with an acceptance of the basic CAGW premise.

  17. I have done considerable graduate work in archeology. Archeologist try to reconstruct the past environment to understand the adaptation species make to the environment, and especially humans. The dynamics of the solar changes then become more apparent after having to look at those adaptations to the changing environment. The earth has gone through heat and cold cycles for billions of years and will continue to do so without human impact or effect.

  18. He quotes Nietzsche’s observation that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups,”

    Nietzsche was an exceptional individual.

  19. Oh how the shoe fits the climate alarmists.

    “Group-think, Suppression of Dissent, and Enforced Conformity in Thinking
    The cult has standard answers for almost everything, and members are expected to parrot those answers. Willfulness or independence or skeptical thinking is seen as bad. Members accept the leader’s reality as their own.

    There are two corollaries:

    A) Independent or critical thinking is discouraged, especially critical thoughts about the leader or the group or the cult’s teachings.
    B) Positive thoughts and statements about the leader and the group are encouraged.

    In cults, no criticism of the leader, his teachings, or his organization is seen as valid — such criticism is always automatically wrong, just because it criticizes the guru, his teachings, or his group. (And of course such criticism of the guru or his group also breaks Cult Rule Number One, “The Guru Is Always Right”.)

    Dissent and disagreement are also seen as impolite and inappropriate. One should “respect” the “traditions” and “ancient teachings”. “They are much older than you are. After all, what do you know? Just go along with it.”

    Cults also assert that questioning the group’s doctrines will lead to bad results. You might not get into Heaven, or you might not get enlightened, or your doubts will make you backslide, or something like that.

    Cults consider it immoral, or at least a serious spiritual failing, for someone to think independently, rather than parrotting the standard slogans and text. And actually criticizing the illogical or irrational aspects of the cult’s doctrines is considered a very serious moral offense. Cults will even claim that you are harming other cult members by questioning the craziness — you are keeping others from going to Heaven, or you are weakening their faith, or you are leading them into temptation and you are leading them to their downfall, causing them to become “lost souls”. ”

    http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-cult_q0.html

    Who would have thunk that a field of science falls prey to group think?

  20. Group-think and intolerance to criticism are notably present on both sides of the AGW conflict. It’s the human nature. Some of us are born and/or brought up as gentlemen, the others are “cattle farm intellectuals,” and the latter never learn.

    But there is a real difference between skeptics and alarmists.

    While AGW group-think may be a common disease in craven Academia, in financial, commercial, and political circles the AGW propaganda is a clever money-making mechanism and a power grab, the new and effective way to exploit amazing ignorance and fears of the general population.

    Yes, a religion of sorts. And the high priests of this new religion, like all priests of all times, are the least believing of all: they know exactly, what they are doing, they laugh in our faces and in the faces of their faithful, they already accumulated such an iron-clad power that our diddly “skepticism” doesn’t bother them at all — we cannot do them any harm.

    I suspect that the smartest bunch on the Green Side of the Force quietly approves the existence of such outlets as WUWT. Antics of the skeptics have entertainment value for our masters, allow them to appreciate their success more vividly. Winning over fools is easy and boring, crushing under your feet something truly precious, something you never can become — those loathsome brave, talented and knowledgeable people — is sublimely thrilling for the jaded rulers of the world. That’s why they pay millions for imbecilic abstract art, or go to degenerate, tax-funded opera houses to listen to Verdi and Mozart being perverted and mocked by voiceless singers and hapless conductors. The Conqueror Worms enjoy their power that way.

    Also, according to several conversations I had with wealthy alarmists, they view sites like WUWT as useful relief valves: let those perspicacious types gather together and let their steam off in completely harmless way, perusing articles published in untouchable “peer-reviewed” journals, finding errors and wasting their own and others’ time, endlessly analyzing details, making obvious conclusions, and building imaginary reputations among their ilk — instead of really trying to take control of the situation by force. Let the discontent play in their sandbox, while the real world belongs to the serious, practical people, thieves and liars.

  21. The glue of group think is confirmation bias and the antidote is the scientific method. When you come across group think you simply say “What is your hypothesis and how can we falsify it?” If this alarms them they’re talking BS.

  22. groupthink???……what a lame excuse

    Not after all this time…..that’s saying they don’t even know their own science…or that they are ignorant of it

  23. Scottish Sceptic says:
    April 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm
    “OK, the null hypothesis is that it is we sceptics who are the groupthinkers and are deluded and not the climate scientists. The question then, is if we are so deluded by group think to believe we are right when the truth is that we just all share a consensus delusion, how would we know?”

    I can only speak for myself. I derive no personal gain or recognition or prestige or anything from being here so I don’t care if any of you disagrees with me. I am here to gather information for my own perusal; I would be reading the MSM if they had trustworthy information but that era is over.

    If this were a consensus group I’d leave.

  24. It should be understood that ‘groupthink’ is, in fact, a behavioural norm right across humanity. Climatology is by no means unique among the sciences in having an outworn (or just plain WRONG) paradigm sustained by a corrupt heirarchy that cannot amend its position without destroying its credibility and prestige, and suffering a painful reduction in allocated resources.
    You might also note the phenomenon of groupthink on this very blog. How many of your contributors associate Right-wing (good and decent) political views with climate scepticism? You may take some comfort from the observation that warmist blogs are obvious havens for groupthinking (evil, immoral) Left-wingers. And yet, politics should be totally unrelated to what is supposed to be a not-so-simple matter of fact.
    Whatever one may say or think about scientific ideals, the unfortunate reality is groupthink!
    To briefly address the three enumerated points raised above:
    1. When one is part of a group, airy-fairy ethical and moral consequences are irrelevant to those who conform. To be blunt, conformity is GOOD and nonconformity is BAD.
    2. Closed-mindedness is a virtue where independent thought threatens the cohesiveness (and, therefore, existence) of the group.
    3. Uniformity, consensus, ‘get with the plan’. Guardians of groupthink are everywhere. These include human resources personnel (whose real role is to justify corporate policy to the underlings), priests and political demagogues (either sustainers of existing groupthink or manufacturers of a new groupthink), to name just a few.
    I hope that most of your readers can honestly question their own social and professional attitudes. If one wishes to avoid falling into the groupthink trap, it is necessary to constantly question perceived norms. Religious people and many members of political parties are among those who have found constant re-examination and persistent uncertainty too taxing. They have given up. And it must be admitted that the peace of certainty – however wrong – is, for many, far more comforting than the turmoil of doubt – however honest.

  25. Academic Freedom.

    In climate science, there is none. As much as they resort to using the concept when needed (Mann’s emails), they go out of their way to invalidate it when they perceive a threat to the consensus (climategate emails).

    This is a much stronger version of maintaining consensus than I think we have seen before. There is a coercive element to it. It seems to be a much more extreme version of GroupThink.

    If they believed so strongly in the concept, they would have already been trying to lead by example by curtailing their personal use of fossil fuels, set-up groups who reduce group emissions etc. Instead, we have gradiose meetings in all the most expensive tourist destination spots around the planet during the local high season.

    Cut-off ALL the funding. This is the only way I see getting out of this mess. Write your politician.

  26. DirkH says:
    He quotes Nietzsche’s observation that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups,”
    Nietzsche was an exceptional individual.

    Ah…the logical paradox. LOL. Beautiful DirkH. I am sure Nietzsche would have laughed too!

  27. KR, could you please point to some posts where you have challenged some aspect(s) of the “consensus” over at SkepSci? Really it seems to me you are the epitome of a group thinker.

  28. As others have said or alluded to, “Warmists” as a group are motivated by more than the pure psychology of a collection of people who believe we may be in for future danger. The other motivations of whole or parts of the Warmist are: political achievement, social recognition, monetary rewards, media recognition, media business success, investment partners reducing or eliminating risk, academic accolades, Hollywood Oscars, Nobel Prizes, school essay contests.

    Since the “globe” is involved, all of the above is necessary to create & sustain this perfect storm. I submit that the only way to defeat this movement, because of it’s momentum & the driving forces, is success at the ballot box… there is no other way. It’s Right v Left, Capitalism v Communism, Religion v Atheism… Freedom v Slavery… think about it.

  29. the public don’t seem to be going along with groupthink!

    30 April: Guardian: Adam Corner: Personal carbon allowances – a ‘big idea that never took off’If we really are ‘all in this together’, then why are personal carbon allowances so politically unpopular?
    (Adam Corner is a research associate at Cardiff University. His interests include the psychology of communicating climate change)
    But why shouldn’t the concept of a personalised ‘budget’ be applied to our environmental debt, as it is to our financial one?…
    In a UK government review in 2008, it was written off as a policy “ahead of its time”. When individual politicians have dared to raise the idea of an individualised carbon budget – which people could spend, trade and owe just like money – the response from the political establishment and the media has not been positive. At best, personal carbon budgets are dismissed as impractical – at worst, they are caricatured as a totalitarian attempt to control behaviour.
    But – perhaps surprisingly – research that has looked at how personal carbon budgets are perceived by the public has not always found such cynicism. In a review of the limited amount of data on public perceptions of carbon budgets, Dr Tina Fawcett found that personal carbon quotas – although by no means unconditionally endorsed – were often seen in a more positive light than other policy alternatives (eg carbon taxation).
    And, whenever small-scale pilot schemes for trialling personal carbon budgets have been attempted, they have been met with a positive response from those who have participated in them. Typically, though, the participants in the pilot schemes have been enthusiasts, already convinced by the argument that there is a moral duty for individuals to use as little carbon as they can. There is (as yet) not much direct evidence of an appetite for personal carbon budgets among the general public…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/personal-carbon-allowances-budgets?newsfeed=true

    Tina co-authored “The Suicidal Planet: How to Prevent Global Climate Catastrophe” and ” How We Can Save the Planet: Preventing Global Climate Catastrophe”, so Adam doesn’t bother mentioning she’s already convinced!

    ScienceDirect: Personal carbon trading: A policy ahead of its time?
    Tina Fawcett, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University Centre for the Environment
    Received 22 May 2009. Accepted 1 July 2010. Available online 18 July 2010.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421510005239

  30. Challenger is another classic example of Groupthink.

    I made the AGW/Groupthink parallel years ago. It is absolutely text book. A finer example does not exist.

  31. In my opinion, a better example of group think than climate science is the community which frequents this blog. There are so many scientific misconceptions propagated with almost no one dissenting. People are willing to accept any theory no matter how wrong which contradicts AGW,: the temperature record is a fraud, global warming is due to cosmic rays, positive feedback automatically implies a temperature runaway will occur, the greenhouse effect is contrary to the second law of thermodynamics…

    On the basis of the above post, why not claim that biologists’ acceptance of the theory of evolution is an example of group think? It has the same characteristics. It is unanimously accepted by biologists. All work done in biological science and medicine is based on it, the workers’ living depends on belief in evolution. Also by coincidence the theory was developed by an Englishman, in the same year as the greenhouse theory of global warming.

    Also, despite the fact that people who don’t accept evolution, are ridiculed by scientists, there are many people in the US who are smart enough to know it is a fraud. Only about 1/2 of the population accept Darwin’s theory evolution as valid.

  32. When I began reading this post, the first thought that came to my mind was Charles Mackay and his famous book: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. I was glad that a reference to him appeared in a later section of the post. I think Mackay would have included global warming in his discourses on “national delusions”.

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

  33. The industry I work in – newspapers. Our leadership committed fatal groupthink when, during the 1990’s, they had to have an answer to the internet. Answer? Give the work of paid editorial staff away for free on the internet while still charging for it on the printed product. The accepted theory was that links back and advertising would make up the difference. Well, guess what? That hasn’t happened, and all newspapers have been forced to cut deeply into that editorial staffing in order to stay in business. The time will come when newspapers will want and expect editorial content for free too, just like we’ve trained our readers. This is all the result of stupid groupthink at the outset of the tech revolution.

  34. If I were a member of the hardcore Left I might think that groupthink would be a good way to herd the useful idiots. Good thing the Left hasn’t thought of that yet.

  35. Alexander Feht says:April 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    “…While AGW group-think may be a common disease in craven Academia, in financial, commercial, and political circles the AGW propaganda is a clever money-making mechanism and a power grab, the new and effective way to exploit amazing ignorance and fears of the general population. …

    Alexander sums it all up and words it very well in his whole comment.

    This battle is far from over, and it is probably unlikely logic will trump entrenched agendas. These people, with all their disparate (and all their mutually beneficial) plans and needs will plough ahead, act, and then ‘manufacture’ the ‘support’ for their actions.

    Bob Dylan: (yeah, again, but so apt here) “And the masters, make the rules, for the wise men, and the fools.”

  36. misterjohnqpublic says: “Another word for groupthink is arrogance.”

    Yes, or hubris. Call it what you will, the incident that best epitomizes Warmist arrogance is 350.org’s 10-10 “no pressure” video. Several dozen people created that hideous production, and apparently not one of them had any second thoughts about the monstrous concept of blowing children up for the crime of not supporting the AGW meme. They ALL thought the video was funny. In fact, it is a stark preview of the absolute corruption that will accompany acquisition of absolute power by Marxist watermelons.

  37. simple everyday psychology – nobody wants to admit they might be wrong especially after being adamant for so long

  38. It’s a propaganda driven and fraud and based conspiracy. “Group think” really doesn’t cover the level of deceit in play here. It goes far beyond that.
    You’re too nice for this world.

  39. Since 2010 I have used the term “groupthink tank” in posts at several of the AGW echo chambers I haunt. Thought I had coined the term but alas, nothing’s new. I “echo” the author’s sentiments and offer my own example of AGW groupthink, one that covers all three of the Janis’ main categories of symptoms of groupthink syndrome: the 10:10 “No Pressure” Armstrong/Curtis “travesty.” A pretty classic example actually.

  40. Eric Adler says:
    April 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    In my opinion, a better example of group think than climate science is the community which frequents this blog. There are so many scientific misconceptions propagated with almost no one dissenting. People are willing to accept any theory no matter how wrong which contradicts AGW,: the temperature record is a fraud, global warming is due to cosmic rays, positive feedback automatically implies a temperature runaway will occur, the greenhouse effect is contrary to the second law of thermodynamics…

    On the basis of the above post, why not claim that biologists’ acceptance of the theory of evolution is an example of group think? It has the same characteristics. It is unanimously accepted by biologists. All work done in biological science and medicine is based on it, the workers’ living depends on belief in evolution. Also by coincidence the theory was developed by an Englishman, in the same year as the greenhouse theory of global warming.

    Also, despite the fact that people who don’t accept evolution, are ridiculed by scientists, there are many people in the US who are smart enough to know it is a fraud. Only about 1/2 of the population accept Darwin’s theory evolution as valid.
    ———————————————————————
    Taking your points in order:

    You must be reading a different version of WUWT than the one that appears on my screen if you believe that “people … accept any theory no matter how wrong which contradicts AGW”. There has been plenty of vigorous debate about competing climate theories, the reliability of data from different sources etc in the version that I have been reading. The fact that Anthony insists that debate remains civil has in no way the same as saying that people here just swallow whatever they read. You must have missed some of the intense, but relatively polite, discussions about conflicting theories that frequently occur on this site.

    Your statements about evolution are inaccurate, 100% of biologists do not believe in the theory of evolution, which in any event is far from monolithic. There are literal ‘creationist’ biologists and a significant group of ‘intelligent design’ biologists, not to mention many divergences among those who broadly support the theory of evolution but disagree substantially about what it means in practice.

    As for your figures about the US population’s views of evolution, I have no idea if they are correct, but they are in any event irrelevant to the subject under discussion.

  41. Paul, I suggest you do some real research on Vietnam and not follow groupthink. The war was being won even with political meddling from incompetent presidents and would have had a different outcome if the liberal press had kept their Pulitzer seeking noses out of it. If the US had not stepped in, just what do you think the area of the world would have looked like.

  42. May I quietly suggest that another prime example of ‘groupthink’ in science is Darwinian evolution. All of Janus’ hallmarks are present and more & more scientists are realizing this, especially cellular biologists and mathematicians, as evidence piles up. I suspect this suggestion will encounter some feedback and will be happy to supply a reference list to any truly interested.

  43. One reason why the AGW groupthink has been so widely accepted in the political sphere is that it coincided with, (was fed by?), the rise of environmentalism. The Left used environmental fears to persuade the younger generations that everything the West did was for greedy & selfish reasons, & therefore must be opposed by moral individuals.

  44. “subtle constraints … prevent a [group] member from fully exercising his critical powers and from openly expressing doubts when most others in the group appear to have reached a consensus.”

    Too bad he is also speaking of blog communities, though I have migrated to the skeptic ones (yes, WUWT for one) for the minimum of this very effect. Now if we can just tone down the few top-posters who seem to insist on that type of “groupthink” (and bar-the-doors if you disagree) instead of being inquisitive as to why you hold an opposing viewpoint. Opposing views are always what moves science along its track into the future and it always seems to come from the few, or even just one voice.

  45. johanna says:
    April 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm
    …..Your statements about evolution are inaccurate, 100% of biologists do not believe in the theory of evolution, which in any event is far from monolithic. There are literal ‘creationist’ biologists and a significant group of ‘intelligent design’ biologists, not to mention many divergences among those who broadly support the theory of evolution but disagree substantially about what it means in practice.

    As for your figures about the US population’s views of evolution, I have no idea if they are correct, but they are in any event irrelevant to the subject under discussion.
    ++++++++++++++++++
    I would add that whether one believes in “The Big Bang Theory” or believes that “God said it and, BANG!, it happened”, we are still surrounded by this physical world which is governed by physical laws that Man is endeavoring to understand.
    Also…
    ==================
    Eric Adler says:
    April 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    In my opinion, a better example of group think than climate science is the community which frequents this blog. There are so many scientific misconceptions propagated with almost no one dissenting. People are willing to accept any theory no matter how wrong which contradicts AGW,: the temperature record is a fraud, …
    ()()()()()()()()()(()(()()()()()
    I think you just like to argue. “The temperature record”. The one Michael Mann found in a few tree rings? I’ve never heard anything from anyone that has convinced me I should accept a wooden nickel.

  46. Bob Rogers says:
    April 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm
    May I quietly suggest that another prime example of ‘groupthink’ in science is Darwinian evolution. All of Janus’ hallmarks are present and more & more scientists are realizing this, especially cellular biologists and mathematicians, as evidence piles up.

    **********

    What does the evidence pile up to? And please don’t say Intelligent Design, which is a religious based philosophy and not grounded in science. What is the more compelling theory? And what facts support it?

  47. A similar example of the power of group think is deference to an authority figure when the culture does not encourage junior members of the team expressing doubts.

    In the process of aircraft accident investigations years ago they found that often the crew had all the information that they needed to avoid the accident, but due to the internal dynamics of the crew, useful and sometimes critical information was simply discarded because it conflicted with the opinion of the senior pilot. There are cases of air crashes due to the aircraft running out of fuel and the flight engineer I believe it was kept trying to tell the pilot and copilot that they were short of fuel but his information was simply discarded as not fitting the pee-conceived expectations of the senior flight officers.

    To some extent humans are hard wired to herd like behavior and deference to a strong leader unless their local culture actively encourages the minority opinion being expressed. Even then if that request for conflicting information is only a pro-forma request and there are subtle forms of peer pressure to not rock the boat it still leads to group think.

    I recall a story I read about a relatively junior pilot who was flying with a very senior officer. The senior officer advised him as they got in the aircraft “there is no rank in this airplane! If you see something that does not look right you tell me!”

    By doing that he gave the junior officer permission to bring conflicting information into the cockpit and encouraged him to actually do his job of monitoring what was going on in the air craft and form his own judgements regarding if things were normal or not.

    The current culture in higher education (heck even grade school) where so much emphasis on “team building” and “consensus” is an absolute prescription that virtually guarantees group think will dominate all but the strongest personalities in the group. Our educational system with their warm and fuzzy everyone gets a trophy and no value judgement grading and lets everyone work in a happy cooperative group is laying a foundation for 30 -50 years of this sort of nonsense as these students go into a world where they have no clue how to say —

    “wait I think you are making a mistake!”

    You want those people on your team and participating in the decision process. They keep everyone honest if they can express their concerns constructively and the others in the group understand how to evaluate conflicting information objectively without forcing it to fit through a filter of expectations.

    Larry

  48. From my experience in the private sector, groupthink is in part a self-preservation strategy based on a no-fault premise: if everyone buys in, nobody can be faulted for being wrong. Individuals may have doubts, but there is no upside in expressing them. The whistle-blower doesn’t just identify the primary ones in error, but all the enablers, sycophants and gravy-train travellers. That is why he is vilified and has to have special, legal protection.

    If nobody moves, nobody gets hurt. The implicit assumption in this concept is that danger lies in straying from the status quo. In the stockmarket – unfortunate personal experience here – the analyst who lets his clients slide all the way down is not pilloried if all clients have slid similarly; in fact, if his clients’ losses are only slightly less odious than that of the group, he receives thanks for his non-efforts. The analyst who says his clients must sell when the firm wants to hold firm, betrays the firm by showing internal disagreements. The stock-market clients want no disagreement. He is gone, gone, gone.

    Groupthink, I am saying, has different components reflecting different parts of the social group Groupthink is about the power that lies in certainty, the requirement that no options but the ones in play are possible, despite their possible unpleasantness. First, those with power, or who think they have power, are threatened by appearing not to have certainty: Gore, Hansen, Suzuki, Gillard are some of these. And they, themselves,do have certainty, at least enough to move forward, for their egos say they are smarter and wiser than the common. Even if there is doubt, it must be in the details – which don’t matter. Keep the narrative clean, perhaps, but that is because the narrative IS clean, in its essence. And they believe at least this.

    Second, those allied with power are threatened by loss of opportunity by their association with power. Mann, Jones, Schmidt: their egos AND their professional lives and social activities will collapse if they allow uncertainty into the discussion. Their certainly flows both ways, supporting the power-holders above them, and defeating the resistance from below.

    Third, the lowest group, – the Madding Crowds of voters – are represented by the Romm, McKibben,Gleick, Richard Black group: they WANT certainty. They benefit vicariously by being acolytes: the Enlightened who will become warriors if needed (think Gleick). These are the ones who deep inside want figures who figure things out for them, who they perceive as wise elders (the IPCC, Suzuki as an individual). These authorities hold the place that ideal parents, doctors, priests or, ultimately God once held.

    Dispute about CAGW (or other large scale issues, including racially-based conspiracies or witchcraft) puts this lowest, potentially most dangerous group, in an untenable position. They want but also may NEED the world to be “nailed down”. They would be personally devastated to find out they were not just wrong but wronged (Michael Shermer, writer and editor of Skeptical Enquirer, is a maniacal debunker and denier of all non-mainstream science, as well he should be: he is an admitted former Believer, since disappointed.)

    Groupthink is a phenomenon that does not have the same cause or reason to be maintained for all parts of the group. In business, as I have seen, those close to the top will act forcefully in opposition to simple logic because they cannot mentally handle behaving day-to-day in ways that they disagree with: they drink the Kool-aid because life is untenable otherwise. Once they retire or move away from the powers that create the mandate, they will come clean, without hesitation or embarrassment. What else could I do? they say. It was a done deal and I had to get on-board or leave the ship. This is well documented as how the intellectuals of Czechoslovakia survived during the Stalinist period (though ultimately leading to alcoholism, depression and suicide).

    Life is generally good for the top echelons of groupthink. They set the rules and rule those who punish the rule-breakers. The real problem with maintaining groupthink lies at the bottom of the group, with the ones whose lives are based on following instructions. The foot soldiers understand they must look above for advice, support and security. If they lose faith in those who control all that is important, they are in a dark, dark place. A place no one wants to be.

    So how to you defeat bad groupthink? Chip, chip, chip. That is one way. Pieces fall apart silently and somewhat secretly, so those at the top go silent or look the other way. Is Obama doing this now, leaving climate change out of his speeches? Speaking up for tolerance in the subject is another: like firing an EPA manager who goes too far? Let’s see if Jackson stays in her post. Chris Hulme, in the UK, is now gone: was it really a stupid avoidance of a speeding ticket that did him in?

    The other, most common, way a bad groupthink idea collapses is when bad things consequent to the groupthink happen to too many “innocents”, supporters and disbelievers alike.

    Examples: in the Viet Nam war fight of the ’60s and early ’70s, as well as the witchcraft run of the late 1600s to early 1700s, the eventual fallout reached everyone. The draft by lottery captured only about 2% of the male population, but threatened 100% of the entire population – all the men, all the wives, daughters, sons, mothers and fathers of the United States. Everyone had a personal stake in the “rightness” of the war. Earlier, during the witch mania in Europe, some villages were denuded of their wealthy but not politically protected members. All families had someone taken from them, those whom they knew to not be witches. Year after year this went on, until all survivors expected to be targeted. Nobody was left safe, not even informers. That was when the end came, when the witchhunters were now the hunted and the victims of the purifying fires.

    As for CAGW: when the windfarms are on your doorstep, you see them broken and idle while your electricity charges have doubled and your property values halved, when gas costs you $10/gallon and you are prohibited from flying unless you have paid an indulgence or have an legal exemption, when your business failed because Green taxes are too high, you are not “green” enough, or your customers can’t afford you, and yet there is no discernible improvement in your lives (the witches are all dead, but we still have hailstorms and plague?), you are in the same position as those in ’68 of watching an idiot on TV draw a bingo ball to determine who dies tomorrow or hearing the hoof beats of another witch-hunting party arrive in the market square. The problem is no longer OUT THERE, involving OTHER PEOPLE, but has become here, and you. And since you know that you are a victim but not a problem, you will disbelieve. And disobey.

    The second way is the traditional end of groupthink gone bad. Will it have to go this far? Perhaps not. The sound of chipping is pretty loud. Chipping away is what WUWT, Climate Depot, Talkbloke’s Talkshop is all about. Informed dissent with an audience. Me, I’m hopeful, still. Not CERTAIN, but hopeful.

  49. Bob Rogers:

    In a feeble attempt to break out of the “Engineer mold” I tried to get into Pharmacy school in the mid ’90’s. One of the “missing prerequisites” was a microbiology course. (1996)… In that course I found out that the reason there were individual survivors in a petri dish with a single bacterium species, exposed to an antibiotic, was because of the fact that the particular survivors had altered their biochemistry to make themselves “antibiotic resistant”. Even more STUNNING than this discovery was that the survivors somehow ALTERED their DNA to carry this change forward.

    LAST, they also develop DNA communcation threads, called “Prions” which can COMMUNICATE the needed change to other members of their species in the solution/culture.

    Completely “Lamarkian”.

    So when one of my church’s high schoolers was carrying a biology textbook (dated, about 1999 vintage) around a couple years ago…I asked to look it over while at a church supper. SURE ENOUGH, completely up with the times…NOT!!!! It had the classic “random mutation/evidence of
    how “natural selection” works…reason for the survival of the few and their ability to be anti-biotic resistant.

    HAHAHAHA! Yes, “eeeeeevolutionary groupthink” at its finest!

    Max

  50. The usual term for “The groupthink syndrome” is the Asch Effect, named after Solomon Asch, 1907 – 1996.

  51. There’s a list somewhere of about 25-odd modern theories that either turned out to be flat out wrong, or very questionable, including the value of prohibiting the use of DDT and the ozone layer. It seems to be the kind of thing that fits the groupthink argument; does anyone know of a link to it?

    Also, Sagan’s comment seems rather ironic, given his stance on AGW before he passed away.

  52. Some thoughts:

    The tendency to conform to a group, particularly with regards to a moral context/cause, and particularly amongst the young,is so strong in humans I suspect, because it had evolutionary benefits in our distant past. In other words, we are pre-disposed to be susceptible to group-related causes, following an inborn moral imperative, which allowed our ancestors, within groups, to survive over those groups that didn’t have this strong predisposition.

    If you need any obvious evidence of this, have a look at the hold of religion on humans. Religion is simply the inborn moral imperitive (i.e. God/higher Cause) combined with group/social identity. It is a very powerful fusion of the two.

    However, for this kind of ‘groupthink predisposition’ to be effective in an evolutionary sense, it has to be not only very strong in making members conform to a social agenda, but it goes so far as to set up both social and psychological structures to strongly oppose other agendas/groups/ideas etc. In other words, I think the deep seated intolerance of ‘other’ groups is deeply buried in our subconscious; a leftover of our evolutionary tribal past.

    But the one thing this human groupthink/tribalist tendency is not very good at, is science. It was never set up by evolution to be necessarily ‘true’, or consistent with external observations, but only to be effective socially, which is not the same thing. If anything, the psychological processes involved tend to actually depart from external observations in order to achieve what can’t be easily detected by the senses; the ‘moral instinct'; fighting on in the face of adversity, so to speak. Such a departure from the external senses gave some survival advantage, within certain moral social contexts (e.g.war).

    It is most obviously expressed in religion, which combines an inborn moral imperative/social cause within a group/identity context. But one major mistake of science in general has been to traditionally assume that ‘religion’ and ‘science’ are two completely different things; psychologically they actually overlap, and the same problems and side effects that occur with one, occur also in the other. These side effects can be severe, it was indeed a very costly thing, this evolutionary groupthink tendancy that evolved; on the one had we had moral beings fighting for a cause and an identity, on the other had we have fanaticism and moral justification for just about anything, as the moral cause ignores the external environment.

    J.R.R.Tolkien was onto something when he wrote satirically about an all powerful thing that came into being, which was able to control minds to a point where one could control the world. This mind control mechanism, however is so dangerous, and so able to be co-opted for various selfish interests, that it is actually better to get rid of it once and for all. The social consequences are too severe. So the world has gradually discovered that the old religions, (which combine group-think with the moral imperative), were not only never related to reality in the first place, but contain some nasty side effects, which are best destroyed. But in so doing, just as with Tolkiens One ring, “many fair things also fade away”, such as the mystical and the secure, and the sublime”.

    AGW as an idea is being used irresponsibly, by the elite, for groupthink and moral purposes, the same sort of social process that has plagued all of human history.

  53. Max Hugoson says:
    …reason for the survival of the few and their ability to be anti-biotic resistant.

    *******

    And that in a nutshell is evolutionary theory. Is it not?

  54. The individuals captured by groupthink get to the point where they can’t help it:

    “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives”.

    ~Leo Tolstoy

  55. Reg Nelson says:
    April 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Perhaps we can compare the argument of evolution vs. intelligent design to the black swan fallacy, only with a larger space to examine. Maybe there is a way to find a designer; maybe not. From a scientific viewpoint, it’s deucedly difficult. At least with the Higgs boson, we have some generally-agreed on methods of conducting the experiment. Pure mathematics won’t resolve the issue, especially if you take the Hugh Everett formulation of non-collapse of quantum mechanics as a possibility.

    By comparison, the scale of finding the drivers of climate change is much smaller. In fact, I think we already have enough raw data to put broad limits on what theories remain plausible. My quick guess is measuring lunar albedo to sufficient accuracy over a 20-60 year period – and getting Earth’s albedo in the process, along with satellite and ocean observations, should wrap it up, in terms of CO2 vs. clouds and aerosols. We still may not have the medium-term cycles – say the 850-1100 year cycle – explained – that may take more than one more cycle to answer.

    In the meantime, I’m more worried about the implications of groupthink to human progress. As has been noted, the pressure to accept AGW as dogma is worldwide, and in many/most classrooms around the planet, more than Christianity, Islam, and other religions. So the fight for science could take centuries to resolve.

  56. …Has there ever been another case when so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?

    Well, an example that Christopher Monckton often cites of faulty consensus is Lysenkoism:

    http://www.skepdic.com/lysenko.html

    Although, I’ve never been able to find out if Soviet scientists were convinced, en masse, of Lysenko’s ideas, or just terrified to disagree with them. AGW, on the the hand, seems to have a spectrum – of true believers, self-promoting profiteers (who may not believe), and timid sheep.

    My impression is that once Lysenko had managed to curry favor with Stalin, he was pretty much free to develop any weird idea which indirectly supported the leader’s latest political aims. In other words, Lysenkoism was science totally devoted to saying what the State wanted to have said. But the appeal of Lysenko’s theories to the Marxist mentality escape me. Mendelian natural selection had been embraced by Darwinists, and Capitalists had modified it to fit their notions of society. But what is there about Lysenko’s “vernalization” theory, or the willfullness of inheritable traits, that strikes a cord with Stalin and his cohort?

    Whatever the appeal was, however universal the groupthink became, the charisma and power of Stalin evoked such an aura of invulnerability around Lysenko, that he carried on, year after year with his anti-genetics meme. Real geneticists were dubbed bourgeoise quacks, and learned to either keep silent, or were sent off to the Gulags. Many were, and many disappeared.

    The militant intimidation enforced by CAGW cadres have clear parallels.

    Michael Mann, for example: the very model of the modern, major… er, modeler.

  57. @davidmhoffer:
    April 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    As always I enjoy your analysis and largely agree. However, perhaps the group-thinkers at the UN or Solyndra were not all as cynical as you portray. Admittedly some were and are, but I suspect many in AGW-related positions see themselves as being on the side of good. The way I understand human nature, their train of thought might go as follows: “Perhaps their jobs are not doing as much to alleviate the ‘problem’ as might be depicted to the public, but, since they are contributing their little bit to the solution, their consciences need not be troubled that their positions and programs exist.” Since their thoughts most likely focus on their own security and relative competence, and not on the scientific justification – flawed or otherwise – for the work they do, cynicism would probably not be a major facet of their conscious evaluation of their positions and agendas.

    What is lacking is critical thinking and intellectual integrity, but modern society, in any case, no longer rewards these qualities. Hah! Now that was a cynical thought!

  58. Darn it, I Think I’ve double-posted thanks to this awful new WordPress environment. My apologies. I can’t tell if a comment has disappeared utterly because I’m apparently not logged in, so I’ve learned to copy the comment before clicking. Then, when I’ve completed the log-in if this becomes necessary, the entire comment has disappeared, so I re-enter.

  59. “If I were a member of the hardcore Left I might think that groupthink would be a good way to herd the useful idiots. Good thing the Left hasn’t thought of that yet.”

    Cass R. Sunstein’s book “Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide” covers much of the same ground about consensus leading to extreme positions. It includes suggestions for preventing that problem. In my review at Amazon I noted that the advice could easily be converted into tips to do do as you fear.

  60. Groupthink is part of this, but not the whole story. Groupthink is basically a situation of too much internal feedback within the decision making processes of a group leading it to go off in wild random directions. But the directions of this madness are not completely wild. The theory of climate catastrophe is not random. It represents in my opinion what people “want to believe”. Why, you may ask, would people like to believe that the world was heading for catastrophe? That is an interesting question.

    I think many people are searching for meaning and purpose in life, and for a community to belong to. What bigger meaning or purpose could there be than in committing yourself to fight to save the world against destruction. What better than the fellowship of fellow crusaders fighting the good fight against the forces of evil.

  61. nc says:April 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    “…. Vietnam….If the US had not stepped in, just what do you think that area of the world would have looked like….”

    Very much as it does now, only sooner.

  62. Max Hugoson says:April 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    “… the survivors somehow ALTERED their DNA to carry this change forward….”

    Primarily epigenetics I believe? – fascinating stuff – quite a few studies being carried out only in recent years – more of a twist on evolution than a rewrite.

  63. The people explaining the chance of a huge 6 degrees celsius warming may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The people explain that there could be only a 1 degree warming may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The point is skeptics want to put everyone’s livelihoods at risk, while climate alarmists want to spend a little money to make sure it doesn’t happen. This is the real truth of the matter, we care about the possibility of great harm to humans and deniers want to take a chance.

  64. markx,

    As a Viet Nam vet I’ve done a lot of reading about it. “Lessons Learned” and all.

    North Viet Nam had been planning its insurgency in the South for at least five years prior to JFK’s election. They had an established infrastructure in the South.

    The shooting war was started by President John F. Kennedy, but it was on a limited scale. Then President Lyndon Johnson took over, and blew it completely. Lyndon Johnson overruled the unanimous war plans of his Joint Chiefs of Staff, deciding that a ground war was the way to go.

    The JCS had recommended a two-pronged attack: mining Haiphong harbor, thus denying the NVA of the largest portion of its war materiel, and carpet bombing Hanoi with a fleet of B-52 bombers, until the North cried “Uncle!” Once Hanoi was leveled, other cities would be next. [A single B-52 carried a load of 88 500 lb bombs, and 24 750 lb bombs.]

    The North had no SAM missiles then, and no anti-aircraft weapons that could reach the B-52s’ altitude. Despite popular perception, dictators cannot withstand tthe masses when the proletariat is losing everything under the current leadership. The North would have been forced to sue for peace.

    But as history shows, Johnson blew it big time, eventually committing more than 500,000 American boys to a war based on his inept strategy. Johnson retired to his ranch, grew his hair down to his shoulders, and turned the problem over to President Nixon, who settled the matter. I still think that the war could have been won if the U.S. leadership [already infected by groupthink] had stood up to the weak Chinese bluster, and gone back to the original proposal.

    TET was a last gasp by the Viet Cong, but our fifth column media portrayed it as an American defeat, which it certainly was not: no territory was taken by the VC, and their infrastructure was exposed and largely destroyed. If the Press had acted rsponsibly and patriotically like they did in WWII, the result would have been the same as WWII.

    • Smokey says:
      April 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm
      markx,

      As a Viet Nam vet I’ve done a lot of reading about it. “Lessons Learned” and all.

      Well said Smokey. It is a good to know that there are studied people like you out there that can pass on a wholesome perspective on Viet Nam. Having worked with more than a handful of Viet Nam “Boat People” I know that their slaughterer was averted by the intervention of The United States after the surrender of the French.

      The American media is totally infiltrated by, and committed to, the Left. The American media has portrayed the heroism of the American soldier & American military leadership as dubious, silly, righteous, arcane & out of step with “modern” thinking. Their efforts to “groupthink” us into a totalitarian system is leading us to larger governments, more taxes, less freedom & censored speech, i.e., politically correct speech. Politically correct speech, CAGW, diversity, redistribution of wealth, anti-bullying campaigns, Little League games without scores, rethinking American battles, like Tet… are all direct assaults on American freedom… American Exceptionalism… Capitalist superiority…

      The Marxist’s, Communists, the American Left, hate two things: the natural order of things brought on without government intervention & a wholesome winner-take-all competition in everything from grades, sports to making money & personal success.

  65. This article is right on to point out groupthink.

    There is an experiment where a paper note is passed around a room where each person rewrites it in their own words before giving it to the next person. After a couple dozen iterations, it bears little resemblance to the original.

    Those doing “mainstream” temperature and solar reconstructions too often feel they can make matters a little more like they “should” appear anyway if they fudge them a little. Those are fed into models along with, even worse by far, arbitrary aerosol tricks and more to get a figure for high future warming (GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out). That figure is read by those making predictions of the effects of future temperature rise, who fudge them in turn towards overstating the harm as opposed to benefit from a given temperature rise. Those predictions of dire effects give extra motivation for those doing temperature and solar reconstructions of the past to fudge them more in CAGW-convenient directions in the next iteration, and feel they can get away with it. And so the cycle repeats.

    It particularly got worse after Mann’s hockey stick in the late 1990s, as the implicit message many got is you get vastly rewarded and honored if you fudge for the cause, without the slightest actual risk of academic penalty let alone any legal risks (especially since convenient skewing can always be blamed on accidental error if it ever is discovered and indeed it is frequently almost impossible to say for sure what is deliberate versus accidental on a given single paper even though the overall pattern becomes blatant if one knows what to look at). An irony is that even Greenpeace’s claim of a $0.03 billion once for skepticism is minuscule next to how Greenpeace itself has a budget on the order of $0.3+ billion/year, $3+ billion/decade, which is just the tip of the iceberg next to governmental funding and all else aimed in part at promoting the CAGW movement.

    What gets published as “mainstream” in the 2000s is more extreme and less honest on average than what most would have dared to publish in the early 1990s, and totally unlike the lack of much systematic bias prior to then. Once the field got corrupted and outsiders realized that, fewer even wanted to try to enter it as a career unless personally the kind of ideologue who doesn’t mind dishonesty, not minding that they’d have to toe the party line to get funded.

    The way to get past the above is to do something even many scientists never do: look at original data relatively directly in all fields, even outside one’s own field, not letting such get passed through filters putting propaganda spins on it of interpretation first. For example, I’m not most interested in what mainstream AGW-supporting websites want the public to see; I want to see the raw data before it is processed and “adjusted” (although even the raw data can be fudged sometimes); I want to see what the public is *not* supposed to see. At that point, one can see, for instance, the solar/GCR climate influence like this: http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/319xq.jpg (as discussed more in comments near the end of http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/11/does-co2-correlate-with-temperature-history-a-look-at-multiple-timescales-in-the-context-of-the-shakun-et-al-paper/ ) … and how the alternative is lol BS for explaining the past few centuries, with increasingly absurd claims becoming “mainstream” like the new frontier is towards blaming the MWP to Little Ice Age transition on humans even though the numbers like population and emissions are minuscule and absurd for such even by prior CO2 theory itself (for example: hyperbiased Wikipedia LIA article which has “peer reviewed” paper links).

    That’s not even getting into certain ideologies indirectly supporting the CAGW movement. For instance, the CAGW movement is associated with the energy religion, the belief that human energy consumption must stagnate/decline in the future (as if the present number of several TW human energy usage was a rule of physics in an universe where 200000 TW intersect Earth alone), which is in turn reinforced by such as those who claim vast harm from long-term nuclear waste disposal when actually the limited quantity of manmade radioisotopes has little radioactivity in the long term compared to >> 100 trillion tons of uranium, thorium, decay chain products, potassium-40, etc. natural radioisotopes within Earth’s 3 * 10^19 ton crust.

    But a vast collection of falsehoods combine into a group’s thought patterns, to the degree they think as opposed to emote at all, when the group actively works on trying to expel those having politically incorrect independent thought. I have seen ideological tribalism and then increasing ideological polarization over time on several forums and on Wikipedia in the core deletionist and admin group for the “climate change taskforce,” amounting to microcosms in miniature of the CAGW-promoting networks in the outside world. After they get rid of dissenters, what they have left is trying to one-up each other in repeated iterations. And, for whatever reasons, the type who tend to argue and dominate most (like the highest postcount individuals on a forum in many cases who make 100+x the posts of the average poster) tend to be largely ego driven, about enforcing their views and winning arguments at all costs, while constituting the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever seen.

    There is an effort towards what would become eventually international agreements to indirectly help promote low energy and low material consumption (the way of disguising its simpler term: poverty) on and redistribution away from the non-believers, like those who drive SUVs. I once wondered why communism has been repeatedly tried: Even if you believe an entrepreneur averages $X harm per $Y of economic activity, at most that would mean a particular percentage tax rate for externalities under such logic but never somehow always only 100.00% effective tax rate minimum counterbalancing (pure communism). But then I realized that part wasn’t really based on either logic or noble emotions but rather on jealousy, anger that others don’t respect (worship) an ideology, etc. So is the CAGW movement in part, mixed with the ignorant and naive who are well-meaning but have fallen for appeals to superficial authority. Russian communism, though, at least favored advancement of human material progress (in theoretical goals, however much with issues in implementation) and for eventual expansion of mankind into space. The CAGW movement does not.

  66. The mob mentality effect, in which individuals blithely commit atrocities they would be horrified to contemplate if isolated from the examples and approval of all of the many around them. It’s probably a genetically programmed survival trait from the days of tribal warfare.

  67. I read Paul’s friend as meaning roughly: what other examples are out there of whole fields marching 180 degrees wrong in unison? Firstly, the proper field for analyzing this is that of “veritistic” social epistemology, a part of Theory of Knowledge, how knowledge reaches laymen, as laid out by e.g. Alvin I. Goldman. In his book “Pathways to Knowledge. Private and Public.”, such community-wide behavior is exemplified from the mental health profession (referred to in footnote 23, p. 157). Maybe ask Alvin for updating on the latest news from this part of his field?

  68. The people explaining the chance of a huge 6 degrees celsius warming may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The people explaining that there might only be a 1 degree warming, may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The point is skeptics want to put everyone’s livelihoods at risk, while climate alarmists want to spend a little money to make sure it doesn’t happen. This is the real truth of the matter, we care about the possibility of great harm to humans and skeptics want to take a chance.

  69. Bill Parsons says:
    April 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    But what is there about Lysenko’s “vernalization” theory, or the willfullness of inheritable traits, that strikes a cord with Stalin and his cohort?

    The prospect that the New Man, devoted to the collective, missing the Selfishness Gene, obedient to a fault, could be “evolved” in a single generation or two of intensive social shaping? Fear of the ineradicable self-interest implicit in Darwinism? Whether wishful thinking or expedient propagandizing was the main motivation, it was attractive either way.

    BTW, I’d like to acknowledge the creator of a new neologism: “Hansenkoism“! Click the link …
    ;)

  70. Have to agree on Evolutionary Theory. Very little of it is based on empirical data as far as I can see. And the holes are massive. when I first leant about it 35 years ago, I thought lots of it was just “affirmation” and I never got answers to my questions, just hand waves. As far as I can see, it’s still in the same state today. The aggressivity of its proponents speaks volumes to me.

    It would be fun if Lamarck turned out to be right!
    (Disclosure, Darwin is one of my heroes, I have read two of his books including Origin, hard going believe me!- and his some of his diaries from the Beagle, fascinating and fun).

  71. Love the Nietzsche quote!:
    “Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups”.

    Similarly, IPCC contributor Mike Hulme wrote:

    It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.

    There are no “primitive” and “advanced” human cultures – this is 19th century cultural baggage. There are just human cultures. We are all the same.

  72. Great Article, although I think there may be a factual error. having worked in a number of large investment banks for almost two decades, I am pretty sure that bankers are not “the best and brightest” just a wunch of people who are the greediest.

  73. Michael Whittemore says:
    April 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    “The people explaining the chance… climate alarmists want to spend a little money”… … … SPEND A LITTLE MONEY???

    Are you kidding? When was the last time you saw a government entity SPEND A LITTLE MONEY? When did you see them GET SMALLER!? The world is papered with government spending… “all for the good of the children,” “to feed the poor,” “to warm the families who’s heating oil is too expensive,” “government food stamps,” “free cell phones for the poor,”…

    “IT THEIR RIGHT, DON’T YOU KNOW!”

    “What to buy a bridge?” “Which shell is the pea under?” “How about a Lil-3-Card-Monte?””Hold this bag of money, I’ll be right back…” I have 4 year old grandsons who’s wiser, more street smart than you Michael Wit… (Ooops, better hold that ad hominem…!) [ahem – just in time too ~ac]

  74. Groupthink led directly to the Challenger disaster in 1986. The “O-ring” seals in the boosters were considered to be “settled engineering” by managers, even as engineers reported partial leaking or even burn-through on occasion. The tight allocation of responsibilities allowed for little thinking “outside the box”, extending to the launch morning. Because no-one had been allocated specific responsibility for the key seals, no-one even thought about them, just about ice accumulation on shuttle and tower,

    The exact opposite was true of the Apollo 13 incident. The astronauts, and those in mission control, were thinking “outside the box” because they’d been trained and encouraged to do so, and no-one was ridiculed for raising concerns before the mission, nor suggesting novel or even improbable causes or solutions during the crisis, Strong management (controller Gene Kranz), devolved responsibilities and reliance on individual’s expertise (e.g.. the seemingly suicidal but essential recommendation to shut down the fuel cells) prevailed throughout. It’s a little-known fact that the team used the Kepner Tregoe decision-making model to focus on and identify the cause, an exploding oxygen tank, and to identify solutions. The process all but eliminates groupthink by demanding discussion of, and jointly allocating probabilities (percentage or rating zero to 10) or weighting, to each symptom, factor.or possible cause, and likely solution.

    It would be interesting to see Kepner Tregoe applied to the analysis and conclusions made in the IPCC and other UN reports, I’ve used it (it’s by definition a team tool) to make difficult decisions especially where options are very different, and may only partially (or not at all) overlap. Lateral thinking seems to be a natural by-product, with a group of individuals who’re not afraid to suggest seemingly improbable or even ridiculous solutions, or point out not-so-obvious problems or pitfalls. Every suggestion or criticism must be discussed before inclusion and weighting, or just junking. It’s one great strength of the method.

    Slightly biased summary of the Kepner Tregoe decision-making procedure here:

    http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/kepner-tregoe-decision-making.htm

    and the home page here:

    http://www.kepner-tregoe.com/theKTWay/OurProcesses-DA.cfm

    • To MostlyHarmless… I’m a huge fan of a couple of things:
      1.) The Second Law of Thermodynamics,
      2.) Kepner-Tregoe and,
      3.) Phil Crosby’s, “Quality is Free.”

      Any combination of 2 out of 3 of these will lead any good engineer or scientist to honest products or conclusions. I enjoyed your post.

  75. Brilliant deconstruction of the question “How can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong (about Global warming)?”
    Mix in funding, power and politics and it ticks all the boxes.

    The question now is how can this groupthink be broken?

  76. Excellent thinking all around here! I particularly liked Doug Proctor’s analysis of how groupthink fails.

    This question caught my eye: “…Has there ever been another case when so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?”

    I really only know the surface features of the global warming argument on both sides. I would normally have been one of the “alarmists” by background, but my recent research in another area over the last 20 years or so opened me up to an awareness of the sort of problems you’ve seen in the global warming movement. While I won’t actually present any argument in support of my beliefs in this forum for fear of hijacking the main subject, I’ll simply off the thought that readers consider the case of secondhand and thirdhand smoke as regards the question above. In my opinion the evidence of error in that area is even stronger than in global warming, and the defense of the “alarmists” is even weaker, BUT the “consensus of ‘leading’ scientific minds is perhaps even more unified.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  77. “Paul Bahlin says:
    April 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    40 years ago I was on a station responsible for a massive electronic navigation system with hundreds of vacuum tubes and dozens of drawers of circuitry. We had a 99.95% up time goal and when we went to back ups due to an online failure all hell broke loose. The entire duty section was called out to trouble shoot.

    Group think always took over until exhaustion set in. Then I could work on the system alone and usually fix it while the exhausted took a coffee break. It was fascinating to see the consensus negotiations that took the group think further and further from the problem.

    I don’t work well with others I guess.”

    One of the criteria for jobs these days is to be a “Team Player”. To me that means going with the concensus. Groupthink is alive and well in many areas of the workplace. As in the above story I was a troubleshooter and had to deal with ‘groupthink’ and the stupid ideas the group would come up with.

  78. It is interesting that in the field of climatology the word “consensus” was originally used to describe the state of affairs where 97% of the scientists were 60% sure that the balance of evidence indicated that AGW was real. This seems to then have been turned on its head by climate activists to mean 97% of scientists were 100% sure that AGW was real. The scientists then seem to have fallen in behind the new meaning of the word as created by FoE, WWF, Greenpeas and others.

    I have noticed that this seems to be the way “groupthink” happens. You start off with an open-minded group but it usually takes some outside agent to firm up opinions – management pressure in the case of a corporation, public opinion or the media in the case of politicians. Perhaps activist groups are deliberately using this to their advantage.

  79. Perhaps using the Vietnam war as an example in the broader sense is not best to do. True, groupthink did lead to the limitation of the war (whereas bombing Hanoi might have proven useful).

    But even the leader of the North Vietnamese forces (Vo Nguyen Giap) felt that the North Vietnamese had lost after the 1968 TET offensive (which was a total disaster for North Vietnam) and recommended to the political leadership to make peace. However, the North Vietnamese leadership were looking at the political situation in the states and felt that, even though they had lost militarily, they could win politically.

    So the problem wasn’t in whether or not the war could be won (it could and easily, too), but whether or not the rules of engagement made it an inevitable fail. If the total war scenario used by the U.S. in WWII had been used, North Vietnam would have been beaten into submission in a matter of months. Instead, Johnson (as well as Kennedy) tried a war of attrition. Republics will win wars, but don’t do attrition well.

    On a side note of irony, if Nixon had won in 1960, likely there wouldn’t have been a Vietnam war. And if there had been a war, it would probably have been similar to the Desert Storm wars under both of the Bushs.

  80. I have just finished re-reading Lee Smolin’s 2006 book “The trouble with Physics”. He outlines the history of theoretical physics and the failure of string theory to be a theory at all, let alone the fundamental theory of unified physics, even though it has been the dominant area of research for over 30 years, without leading to one single predictable phenomenon. The final part of the book is entitled “Learning from experience” with chapters on “How do you fight sociology?” and “What is science?” in which he draws on the concept of groupthink to explain why a group of really bright and talented people rely so much on consensus to operate and yet ignore the wider picture.
    This is a scientific area without the political overtones of climate research, yet groupthink was and is alive and well and in full flight.

  81. Group think is why when Warmist debaters lock horns with Lord Monckton they usually lose. They are not used to dissent, debate or examining doubt and have been given an easy ride by the media and politicians. Plus an endless flow of funding.

    IF, over time, they are shown to be clearly wrong about climbing global mean temperature (per the IPCC projections / scenarios all being equal) there will be much denial and speculations about returning warmth in the pipeline without acknowledging that AGW theory is in the dust.

    The belief in man made global warming has the hallmarks of a religion.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8468233.stm

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/nov/03/tim-nicholson-climate-change-beliefs

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/04/the_religion_of_global_warming.html

  82. This is an excellent article. Not surprisingly, I largely agree with it, as it is precisely what I have thought for some years.
    .
    Group think can be very useful, for example if you’re running an army, building the first atom bomb or putting the first men on the moon. But if you’re trying to arrive at an important scientific truth, group think can be utterly destructive. Climate science is a perfect example.
    Several years ago New Scientist ran an article about group think. They specifically mentioned that the IPCC had not been affected by group think. If you believe that….
    .
    A combination of group think and self interest is a particularly toxic mix. A particularly good example of this is the MP’s expenses scandal in the UK. It turned out that more than half of them were regularly stealing money from the tax payer. It’s unlikely that most of them happened to be thieves. But the combination of group think and self interest explains this sorry chapter all too easily. As it does the climate change fraud….
    Chris

  83. Very good analysis! It is sad to see it happening, but as others have noted. it is simply human nature.

  84. Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:57 am

    The people explaining the chance of a huge 6 degrees celsius warming may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening.

    Hardly. Besides, although one could get into pages of discussion why a 6 degrees rise is impossible, your side would oppose like crazy the only countermeasure actually stopping it if matters were otherwise: Just as there are compounds thousands of times more radiative forcing than CO2 in warming effect per ton (the IPCC itself saying that about such as SF6), there are ones orders of magnitude more effective in cooling per ton (namely sub-micron size reflective dust if dispersed from aircraft at stratospheric altitude where the residence time is months and the amount of sunlight reflection to neutralize CO2 doubling on the order of merely 1-2% or less even under the IPCC’s inflated figures for CO2 effect).

    (Different but semi-related: http://reason.com/archives/1997/11/01/climate-controls/singlepage ).

    But one of the turning points that led me to further investigation and finally skepticism was when I realized in experience arguing that the typical environmentalist of the CAGW movement did not *want* geoengineering to work for a minuscule fraction of the cost of ineffective CO2 rationing measures like the many billions going to be spent on pumping CO2 underground for little net effect (except some negatives to plant growth), would not want anything that didn’t maximize restructuring of society.

    CAGW is mostly an excuse for what they want anyway.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:57 am

    The people explaining that there might only be a 1 degree warming, may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening.

    “Global” warming is mostly arctic and near-arctic warming actually (climate4you.com graphs for instance). Such latitudes being warmer in prior warm periods like the Holocene Climate Optimum led to beneficially greater biomass and vegetation seen in the fossil record. Even the polar bears survived such fine.

    The risk is high of a dystopia through a regime of international law becoming eventually like a twisted super-E.U. (only worse and formed on a foundation of dishonesty), with huge harm to human prosperity and reduced likelihood of being a species continuing to advance, eventually expand into space, and survive in the long term. The kind of groups which are utterly dishonest on other topics too like nuclear power and radiation are not the kind which deserve power. The risk of net harm from a 1 degree Celsius rise in itself is nil, in fact with such already experienced in human history, of net benefit, in the Holocene Climate Optimum. Actually, it’d be only a fraction of a degree average over the world, but that’s another topic.

  85. “So, what are those signs? Invariably the first one is the experts don’t feel they have to address any flaws pointed out to them by others. Indeed, they’re nearly insulted at anyone having the temerity to raise such awkward points. Word gets around pretty fast too. Soon, people stop voicing any concerns publically although that certainly doesn’t prevent them from doing so in private. Rumour control is lost but the seriously harmful thing happening here is the enterprise has lost that ability to identify and therefore address problems; it is no longer self-correcting. This is lethal.”

    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/i%e2%80%99m-not-a-scientist-but-%e2%80%a6/

    The groupthink always goes on to produce “thug management”.

    Pointman

  86. My most recent “non-groupthink” hero is Steve Jobs. His biography is a methodical presentation of a fixated, creative, maniacal, focused, unpredictable entrepreneur. Watch, the Left will end up hating him. The Lame Stream Press, the nyt, is already crucifying Apple for taxes, worker abuse by a contractor, excessive profits… I love it!

  87. Climategate Email 4693.txt

    I hope I have not offended anyone in this message — it is of course
    a personal opinion. Maybe it is an illusion or prejudice on my part,
    but somehow I am not convinced that the “truth” is always worth
    reaching if it is at the cost of damaged personal relationships
    ….

  88. I have long grappled with the question, “Why do so many people NEED to believe that this CAGW crap is true?” This article has helped clarify things for me, as far as the insular climate science community goes. But how did this little group madness infect the larger civilization as it has? CAGW strikes me as an outgrowth of the whole environmental madness begun by Rachel Carson’s delusions, yet I still can’t quite grasp why so many believe it, or rather, absolutely NEED to believe it. It’s the need for this malarkey to be true to bothers me. I’m missing something here.

  89. Mackay covered it in, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” 1841. It’s full of wonderful examples of Group Think.

  90. When a scientist falls in love with a theory, he is lost to science. He is now an advocate.
    A whole roomful of scientists in love with a theory. I guess that’s groupthink.

  91. Paul MacRae,

    Well done post. Thank you.

    I am impressed by the high quality of commenting it stimulated.

    John

  92. Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:57 am
    This is the real truth of the matter, we care about the possibility of great harm to humans and skeptics want to take a chance.
    Alarmist ideology has already done great harm to humanity, and would do even greater harm, if allowed to continue. Fortunately for humanity, Skeptics/Climate Realists, with the unwitting assistance of the great hubris and ego of Alarmists are winning. You can thank them now, or thank them later. Your choice.

  93. Very informative article, thanks.

    And just as a word of warning to my fellow skeptics. Groupthink can happen in every group. We skeptics must also evaluate our own thought processes and arguments, and try to avoid agreement that’s arrived at without compelling evidence. Be prepared to be comfortable with ambiguity when complex systems are poorly understood, and be willing to be open to new paradigms.

    I think “Real” climate science’s groupthink has led to two of the biggest flaws in their collective work, 1) faith in unfalsifiable models and 2) either an outright embrace of, or at least a failure to recognize the infamous correlation/causation logical fallacy [If A then B, and B therefore A].

  94. Dont believe a word of it. It’s a contrived and manipulative argument. Little more than propaganda based on pop psychology.

  95. The public / political dynamic is another dimension giving power to the groupthink effect. Get the media, the politicians and the educators sucked in and you’ve got yourself a mighty vortex. And hard to step back. Hence Michael Mann’s last book. A lot public figures have most of their credibilty now dependent on CAGW and can’t get back off the limb that is being sawed on.

    Don’t mistake environmental activists for anything more than end users of climate groupthink, though. They have a separate groupthink for which they find Malthusian common ground with CAGW.

  96. LazyTeenager says:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Dont believe a word of it. It’s a contrived and manipulative argument. Little more than propaganda based on pop psychology.
    Of course, you would feel that way, since it threatens your Alarmist ideology.

  97. @Mickey Reno
    “And just as a word of warning to my fellow skeptics. Groupthink can happen in every group. We skeptics must also evaluate our own thought processes and arguments, and try to avoid agreement that’s arrived at without compelling evidence.”
    Exactly right, and therein lies the difference between the dogmatists and the skeptics: Skeptics acknowledge that Groupthink can happen.

  98. Lest anyone think they are above groupthink open your wallet and look at the little pieces of green paper you and others happily accept as units of value. Modern fiat currency works because almost everyone has accepted the monetary system (which was very easy to implement) mainly because it is too painful to do otherwise (barter and gold/silver being alternatives). In fact, fiat money is the mother of all groupthinks, benefitting the issuers of the money, and far exceeding religions, politics, global warming, and various piddly industry/social groupthinks on the groupthink pyramid, even though history shows fiat money only has a lifetime of about 40 years before it self destructs. From the position of those in power, they’d say the world is basically built on groupthink, so what’s the big deal about a little more global warming groupthink? Why target global warming when there are so many other groupthinks being left alone? I’d say global warming is targeted because it’s case is very weak and a natural target.

    Unfortunately once groupthink is established you can’t easily chip away at it via logic or meetings, as Challenger o-ring engineers discovered, groupthink is usually only destroyed in a sudden calamitous loss of confidence. In the historical cases of fiat money destruction, collapse was biding it’s time until it came quickly with some unforseen event precipitating a total loss of confidence in money. Although I appreciate this blog very much, in the groupthink case of global warming it is likely that only a sustained and painful period of cold weather will be enough to take global warming groupthink down IMO.

  99. I do not wish to take credit away from Paul’s excellent exposition. However, I will draw attention to the article on Groupthink I published at CanadaFreePress a couple of years ago on groupthink.

    I also add a more recent article on the progress of corruption at the CRU.

    IPCC/CRU Self-Deception Through Groupthink
    March 2010, Dr Timothy Ball

    Few understand the extent of corrupted science produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Data was altered, or completely ignored and research deliberately directed to prove their claim that human’s were causing global warming. A.W.Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science is a litany of refusals to disclose information. They all work to prevent other scientists carrying out the most basic test namely, replication of results.
    In his report on the hockey stick debacle for the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Professor Wegman wrote; Sharing of research materials, data, and results is haphazard and often grudgingly done. We were especially struck by Dr. Mann’s insistence that the code he developed was his intellectual property and that he could legally hold it personally without disclosing it to peers. When code and data are not shared and methodology is not fully disclosed, peers do not have the ability to replicate the work and thus independent verification is impossible.

    People identified in the leaked emails of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were primarily responsible through the Physical Science Basis Report of Working Group I of the IPCC and the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). Politics is clearly the motive for some scientists like James Hansen, Stephen Schneider and others, but this is not so clear for most at the CRU. Which begs the question how and why supposedly intelligent people became involved and continued to participate in such corruption?

    The Group
    Irving Janis developed the concept of Groupthink, which requires unanimity at the expense of quality decisions. “Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision-making.”
    http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink overview.htm
    The CRU/IPCC pattern is a classic example.

    Groupthink
    Here’s a list of some symptoms of groupthink with examples from CRU/IPCC emails and actions.

    http://www.abacon.com/commstudies/groups/groupthink.html

    • Having an illusion of invulnerability. Content of the emails has many examples of arrogant invulnerability. In a backhanded way Overpeck provides support for this position because he advised them on Sep 9, 2009 to “Please write all emails as though they will be made public.” They didn’t listen because they believed they were invulnerable. Others within the general community reinforced CRU invulnerability. On October 2003 Ray Bradley, who had published the original hockey stick with Michael Mann, wrote. “Because of the complexity of the arguments involved, to an uniformed observer it all might be viewed as just scientific nit-picking by “for” and “against” global warming proponents. However, if an “independent group” such as you guys at CRU could make a statement as to whether the M&M (McIntyre and McKitrick) effort is truly an “audit”, and if they sis it right, I think would go a long way to defusing the issue. If you are willing, a quick and forceful statement from The Distinguished CRU Boys would help quash further arguments, although here, at least, it is already quite out of control.”
    • Rationalizing poor decisions. Jones rationalized the decision to withhold Freedom of Information (FOI) to the University of East Anglia staff on December 3, 2008 as follows, “Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA (in the registry and in the Environmental Sciences school – the head of school and a few others) became very supportive.”
    • Believing in the group’s morality. The entire body of emails supports this claim. Rob Wilson wrote on 21 February 2006 “I need to diplomatically word all this. I never wanted to criticise Mike’s work in any way. It was for that reason that I made little mention to it initially.” On 6 May 1999 Mann wrote to Phil Jones, “Trust that I’m certainly on board w/you that we’re all working towards a common goal” and later “I trust that history will give us all proper credit for what we’re doing here.” So do I!
    Conversely, Keith Briffa, who I believe was the whistleblower, battled with Mann and became increasingly alienated from the group.

    http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/18232

    On 17 June 2002 he wrote, “I have just read this letter and I think it is crap. I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series.”
    • Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision. This takes the form of unethical comments of practice going without challenge because they were all doing it. On 19 September 1996 Funkhouser wrote, “I really wish I could be more positive about the Kyrgyzstan material, but I swear I pulled every trick out of my sleeve trying to milk something out of that.”
    • Exercising direct pressure on others. On 24 April 2003 Wigley wrote, “One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word ‘perceived’ here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about — it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.” They also got James Saiers, editor of Geophysical Research Letters, fired.
    • Not expressing your true feelings. On the 14 October 2009 Trenberth expresses something to Tom Wigley that none of them ever dared say in public. How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are nowhere close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!”
    • Maintaining an illusion of unanimity. Briffa struggles to maintain the illusion when he writes to Mann on April 29 2007, “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same. I worried that you might think I gave the impression of not supporting you well enough while trying to report on the issues and uncertainties.”
    • Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information. “The idea is that we working climate scientists should have a place where we can mount a rapid response to supposedly ‘bombshell’ papers that are doing the rounds and give more context to climate related stories or events.” This was Mann’s comment to the group about establishment of Realclimate to act as “mindguards”.

    Some of the negative outcomes of groupthink also fit the actions of the CRU/IPCC group.
    • Examining few alternatives. They narrowed the options by the definition of climate change to only those caused by human activities. Of the three greenhouse gases almost all the focus is on CO2.
    • Not being critical of each other’s ideas. Not only were they not critical, but they peer reviewed each others work and controlled who they recommended to editors for reviewers. Mann to Jones 4 June 2003 “I’d like to tentatively propose to pass this along to Phil as the “official keeper” of the draft to finalize and submit IF it isn’t in satisfactory shape by the time I have to leave.” On August 5, 2009 Jones wrote to Grant Foster in response to his request for reviewers for an article, “I’d go for one of Tom Peterson or Dave Easterling. To get a spread, I’d go with 3 US, One Australian and one in Europe. So Neville Nicholls and David Parker. All of them know the sorts of things to say – about our comment and the awful original, without any prompting.”
    • Not examining early alternatives. There was a graph of temperatures drawn by Lamb showing the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and used in the first IPCC Report. It was correct but contradicted their claim of modern warming. As Mann said to Jones on 4 June 2003, “it would be nice to try to “contain” the putative “MWP”, even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back.” They chose to rewrite history.
    • Not seeking expert opinion. Professor Wegman spoke directly to this problem in his report for the US Senate on the infamous hockey stick graph. “It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community.”

    http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/WegmanReport.pdf

    • Being highly selective in gathering information. Apart from only looking at human causes, the CRU emails have many examples of data selected to prove their point. Tim Osborn to the group on 5 October1999 speaks of the issue McIntyre identified of truncated records.

    http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/shared/articles/MBH98-corrigendum04.pdf

    They go from 1402 to 1995, although we usually stop the series in 1960 because of the recent non-temperature signal that is superimposed on the tree-ring data that we use. On the 19 March 2009 Santer wrote to Jones about the Royal Meteorological Society (RMS) asking for data used for a publication. “If the RMS is going to require authors to make ALL data available – raw data PLUS results from all intermediate calculations – I will not submit any further papers to RMS journals.” On 27 September 2009 Tom Wigley wrote to Phil Jones about a problem with Sea Surface Temperatures (SST), “So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 deg C, then this would be significant for the global mean – but we’d still have to explain the land blip.”
    • Not having contingency plans. They never expected they would be exposed. Maybe Benjamin Santer’s comment on April 25 counts. I looked at some of the stuff on the Climate Audit web site. I’d really like to talk to a few of these “Auditors” in a dark alley.

    But they were exposed. Now most can’t believe scientists could ignore or deliberately manipulate data, distort procedures and not have more of them speak out. As Janis explains groupthink, “occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.” The relatively small group involved with the machinations of proving fossil fuels was producing CO2 that was causing warming or climate change appears to be a classic example of Groupthink. Professor Wegman in his report identified 43 people all linked in various ways, but especially publishing together and apparently peer-reviewing each other’s work that apparently constituted this group. They controlled the CRU, the critical roles of the IPCC and therefore world climate science and the resulting policies.
    ————————
    A more recent article on Gradualism is found here;

    http://drtimball.com/2011/gradualism-creeping-corruption-of-climate-science-and-society/

  100. Ian H says:
    April 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    I think many people are searching for meaning and purpose in life, and for a community to belong to. What bigger meaning or purpose could there be than in committing yourself to fight to save the world against destruction. What better than the fellowship of fellow crusaders fighting the good fight against the forces of evil.

    And . . .

    Jon says:
    May 1, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Groupthink is one of many effects of the natural “human factor”?

    – – – – – –

    Ian H & Jon,

    I think you are onto the more fundamental concepts upon which the groupthink syndrome derives its explanatory powers of such irrational phenomena as CAGWism (IPCCism).

    Why does groupthink tend to often reoccur in mankind’s history at the slightest spurious nudge from within any human society? Groupthink is the easiest intellectual path for each individual human to take to escape his feeling of loneliness from his own individuality; all irrationality also requires the exact same slightest spurious nudge that groupthink requires. Rationality is at the other extreme; because it is the most difficult of all the aspects of our human nature to achieve and it can only be done individually; that is done only alone and with great effort by the individual.

    The group cannot think. Only an individual can think. Thinking is hard work. For the individual’s thinking to be rational and objective then it requires the loneliness of an individual’s strict concentration on reality and a lonely individual intellectual honesty that is a “bending over backwards” to not fool oneself. {thanks Feynman for the bending over backwards thought}

    John

  101. Dear Moderator – thanks for fixing my screwed up blockquote commands. I owe you . . . . again.

    John

  102. Bruce Cobb says:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:43 am
    LazyTeenager says: “Dont believe a word of it. It’s a contrived and manipulative argument. Little more than propaganda based on pop psychology.”
    Of course, you would feel that way, since it threatens your Alarmist ideology.

    Whoa, hold on there, Bruce, don’t be so hard on the thirty-something “boy.” Perhaps he’s talking about CAGW, you know. Perhaps his mommy finally found and confiscated the bong and he’s in the blissful throes of mental clarity for the first time in this century.

  103. The groupthink syndrome (shortest version)
    1. Pompousness
    2. Arrogance
    3. Tyranny

  104. Group-think has already been institutionalized by our schools, as kids are now herded into clumps of tables, facing each other and are forced…er, “encouraged”… to “cooperate” as “teams-members.” They are supposed to discuss and reach a consensus. After the novelty wears off and the teachers become lazy or unable to control the noisy mess, this model merely creates gangs led by the group’s bully who immediately lines up his flunkies who help to enforce compliance and selects the sacrificial goats who will be picked on and humiliated to help raise the bully’s status and build “group solidarity.” The teachers, typically 20-something nose-ringed geese, are oblivious to the dynamics, as they run from group to group providing “positive feedback” to the bullies, who are experts at playing the teachers like cheap violins. Parents with kids should take a few minutes to see the dynamic…a few minutes is actually enough. Providing the final straw in convincing a parent to sacrifice and spend money on private school is the only beneficial outcome of this model.

  105. LazyTeenager says:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:17 am

    “Dont believe a word of it. It’s a contrived and manipulative argument. Little more than propaganda based on pop psychology.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha.

    Oh wait. . . ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  106. GogogoStopSTOP says:
    May 1, 2012 at 2:26 am

    “When was the last time you saw a government entity SPEND A LITTLE MONEY?”

    The government makes money off a carbon tax, they don’t spend money. You and I pay the little money. A carbon tax puts up your bills, not the governments bills. Scientists which you think are making up man made global warming, are telling us to be concerned about CO2. You can scream conspiracy at them or pay a little bit extra for your electricity bills. To be honest I cant even make my mum believe in anthropogenic climate change, the people she listens to say the sun is warming the planet, CO2 is coming from the oceans and that scientists are making up the data to get extra funding. All a rational person can say to someone like that is your taking a chance on mainly disproved science and conspiracy theories.

    Henry Clark says:
    May 1, 2012 at 5:14 am

    “Hardly”

    The IPCC says it can very easily go up to 4.5 degrees Celsius, 6 is not an over statement. Something I assume you know is that CO2 will not cause this 6 Celsius warming, its nature that will do it. Most skeptics think that there will be a 1 degree Celsius warming, but the simple fact is, if there is going to be any warming then its hard to know how much, or how the earth is going to react to this warming.

    This comes back to my point, if there is only 1 degree warming, then it wont be too bad, but if its 3 or 6, it will be bad. So you say we take a chance and hope the couple of scientists that have published work on climate sensitivity which say there will not be much warming, are right.

    The “fix” might have to be geoengineering, but scientists don’t like messing with the earth, and would rather a carbon tax. Put it this way, solar molten salt power stations which work during the night and day, is only a little bit more expensive than coal power. But with a carbon tax, coal power will go up in costs and solar molten salt power stations will become a cheaper option.

    Over some years the mass production of this green technology will make it cheaper and at the same time will reduce the need to buy expensive coal. So at the end you get cheaper and cleaner electricity, like I said, pay a little to mitigate the risks, and reduce the chance of a 3 or even 6 degree warming and get sustainable renewable cheaper electricity. :)

  107. “LazyTeenager says:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Dont believe a word of it. It’s a contrived and manipulative argument. Little more than propaganda based on pop psychology.”

    There probably is some merit to it. People involved in groupthink become jaded toward outside views. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve done it… Being a film fan I used to run for the critics Consensus and sooner or later that started to dictate what I like and didn’t like. People like you try and bully others for simply suggesting something other than the consensus. After all, these guys are the experts and are never wrong. Even though Hansen and the bunch HAVE been wrong so different things. James Hansen has basically become god to the young left types.

    What you guys don’t understand is that the bullying tactics the true believers push does NOTHING to change peoples mind. So you basically end up shooting yourself in the foot. So even if your intentions are good, you have no understanding of how to present them in a manner that is helpful to anything. Including your own argument.

  108. johanna says:
    April 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    While many of the points you make are valid, I think it is a pity that you conflated scientific groupthink with political examples. ….

    But as has been pointed out for years here and in other places, climate science has become highly political. It should, rightly, be grouped with other political events. More than that, climate science and environmentalism has become a quasi religion. Thus making it all the more eligible for this groupthink analysis.
    All too sadly, this has been predicted by many. Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, Ayn Rand. The climate science community of today is eerily like “The State Science Institute” in Atlas Shrugged. We are all being told that Reardon Metal is dangerous. All scientists agree. (They all agree that it would be in their best interest to not depart the party line on this issue.)

  109. Morton Thompson’s book on Ignaz Semmelweiss, titled THE CRY AND THE COVENANT, early alerted me to the perils of a consensus hardened around self interested untruth. And the more recent struggles of Barry Marshall to introduce helicobactor pylori to the discussion of gut issues, in face of the costly losses to purveyors of consensus palliatives. It has ever been so. Rigorously applied scientific methodology has been such a boon to humankind; it is tragic to witness its corruption by the pseudo-scientific political climate team.

  110. Alexander Feht says:
    April 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    gcapologist:
    You realize, of course, that your one +1 is worth more than $10,000 to me.
    ____________________
    I’d do it for only $5K.

    No, I wouldn’t. I definitely would not
    Alexander Feht says:
    April 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Some of us are born and/or brought up as gentlemen, the others are “cattle farm intellectuals,” and the latter never learn.
    _________________
    I stopped right there.

  111. Peter Kovachev says:
    May 1, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Group-think has already been institutionalized by our schools, as kids are now herded into clumps of tables, facing each other and are forced…er, “encouraged”… to “cooperate” as “teams-members.” They are supposed to discuss and reach a consensus. After the novelty wears off and the teachers become lazy or unable to control the noisy mess, this model merely creates gangs led by the group’s bully who immediately lines up his flunkies who help to enforce compliance and selects the sacrificial goats who will be picked on and humiliated to help raise the bully’s status and build “group solidarity.” The teachers, typically 20-something nose-ringed geese, are oblivious to the dynamics, as they run from group to group providing “positive feedback” to the bullies, who are experts at playing the teachers like cheap violins. Parents with kids should take a few minutes to see the dynamic…a few minutes is actually enough. Providing the final straw in convincing a parent to sacrifice and spend money on private school is the only beneficial outcome of this model.

    You see exactly the same dynamic in many professional development courses in industry and government. The now young adults are herded into a conference room, given a pep talk by some “authoritative person” then are broken up into “work groups” with a table and an whiteboard or paper tablet and marker and told to come to a group solution to some fragment of the problem.
    Everyone at the table stares at each other until the strong personalities figure out who is a follower and who is a leader. Then the one or two and very rarely 3 personalities contend with each other to herd their work group into their corner (much like a bull elk gathering cows during the rut). After a few minutes of jousting these leaders settle on who is in charge and everyone obediently falls in line, and joins in to pretty up the leaders ideas with some window dressing so they appear to be a group conclusion.

    Studies have shown that the output of those work groups and the quality of their output is almost entirely a product of the strength of personality and IQ of the chosen leader in the area of expertise needed to solve the assignment. It is really fun to watch this process as a fly on the wall. Occasionally a work group will end up with 3 or 4 strong personalities and they will have a devil of a time agreeing on any thing. Yet when a spokesmen is chose by the seminar leader he will get up and assert they came to a consensus then give his/her view of the solution and to avoid embarrassment the whole table will nod their head in agreement just to show a united front.

    In other groups occasionally you get a table of 6-10 herd animals and no leader — then the work group just flounders around like a fish out of water because no one knows how or is willing to lead the group to a conclusion, and no one is willing to stick their neck out to suggest a solution.

    The group think indoctrination of the schools has already reached well into mid level management and has taken root in almost all organizations who do not actively encourage devils advocates and “what’s wrong with this” questions.

    Larry

  112. >>
    Michael Whittemore says:
    April 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm
    <<

    I see you managed to slip the d-word past the moderators.

    >>
    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:57 am

    The people explaining the chance of a huge 6 degrees celsius warming may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The people explaining that there might only be a 1 degree warming, may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The point is skeptics want to put everyone’s livelihoods at risk, while climate alarmists want to spend a little money to make sure it doesn’t happen. This is the real truth of the matter, we care about the possibility of great harm to humans and skeptics want to take a chance.
    <<

    You’re invoking the precautionary principle. This is one of the more insidious concepts pushed by alarmists. Alarmists assume guilt in the same manner as the lawyer who asks a witness if he’s stopped beating his wife yet.

    In truth, the chance of minor warming causing problems is about the same as all the air in the room deciding to collect in one of the ceiling corners. It’s not zero, but it’s not likely to happen either. I wouldn’t waste a dime on trying to prevent either occurrence from happening–even if it were possible.

    Jim

  113. Dinctionary definition for Luther Wu:
    gen·tle·man
    [ jént’lmən ]
    polite and cultured man: a cultured man who behaves with courtesy and thoughtfulness

    Example of correct usage:
    When somebody asked Jack Vance, the well-known American writer, why didn’t he pursue a possible career as a Hollywood script writer, he answered: “They are not gentlemen.”

  114. Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:57 am

    The people explaining the chance of a huge 6 degrees celsius warming may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The people explaining that there might only be a 1 degree warming, may be alarming but there is a chance of it happening. The point is skeptics want to put everyone’s livelihoods at risk, while climate alarmists want to spend a little money to make sure it doesn’t happen. This is the real truth of the matter, we care about the possibility of great harm to humans and skeptics want to take a chance.

    Hmmmmmmn.

    The Precautionary Principle, as used by the CAGW Hansenkoism deists, is the following:

    Activity, Result of Activity, Chance of Occurrence

    Activity = Lower Cost Energy

    Result = Longer lives, better living conditions, better health, better water supplies and cleaner
    water, sewage systems, More concrete, steel, electricity, proper pesticides and fertilizer use, more transportation, better housing, less childhood disease, more food, more fuel, more fodder, …
    Chance = 100% (if government/socialist interference and 3rd world government corruption interference is removed)

    Activity = More CO2 in atmosphere
    Result: 17 to 27% more plant growth, better resistance to drought, more fodder, more food, more fuel, more renewal supplies of wood and sugar, more natural growth of everything that eats plants or eats things that eats plants.
    Chance of Occurrence = 100% (Since humans cannot stop the increase in CO2, but only of the 33% some-odd percent of the CO2 increase that is occurring naturally. .)

    Activity = Control of Energy and CO2 by Decree, Fear of CAGW Crisis
    Result = Death of millions from malnutrition, hunger, disease, bad water, poor shelter. Direct and deliberate harm to billions as the elite get trillions of tax dollars stolen from the world to go to government institutions and their employees of elite proxies and shills. Reduction (the forced death) of billions to a worldwide population at 20% of current levels to enforce a “sustainable” enclave of government-sanctioned “elites” .
    Desirability of Occurrence = 100% (in Michael Whittemore’s case, where he assumes he will be become one of those sanctioned elites, and not one of the dead)

    Activity = Increases in the world’s temperature by 1 degree, of 2 degree, of 3 degree.
    Result = More warmth; more food; longer growing seasons and more cropland; less deaths overall from cold, sickness, starvation, hunger, illnesses.
    Chance: 1% to 3% over a 30 year period.
    Over a 100 to 1000 year period, chance is 0% of temp’s staying still.
    (Chance of temp’s staying still for a 15 year period? 100% – Since it is happening now, despite CO2 increasing!)

    Activity = Increase of Temp’s of 4 degrees, of 5 degrees, of 6 degrees.
    Result = More warmth; more food; longer growing seasons and more cropland; less deaths overall from cold, sickness, starvation, hunger, illnesses. Loss of land by 1/2 meter increase in sea level over 150 years.
    Chance = 0.0001% (Hasn’t happened in the last 1,000,000 years, despite much higher ranges of CO2 in the past than today’s levels. But it could. Natural sea level changes over that same period = 150 to 200 feet.)

    So, on the certain chance that human lives might improve by reducing energy costs, his precautionary principle, as used by the Church of the CAGW of Hansenkoism, is that we absolutely MUST kill 4 billion people on the possibility they might live better lives by improving their energy use.

  115. As a scientist, I find it worrisome that all of the warmest scientists have no trouble ignoring major laws of science. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is not a law to ignore. The atmosphere simply HAS to be warmer than the surface, if it is to warm the surface. As the atmosphere is rarely warmer than the surface, particularly in daylight, which is the climate model norm, it is impossible for any gas in the atmosphere to warm the surface.

    How can they claim to be scientists and practice such selective science? You cannot pick and chose.

  116. Smokey says: April 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm
    “…As a Viet Nam vet I’ve done a lot of reading about it. “Lessons Learned” and all…”

    Smokey, I appreciate your reasoned and politely worded reply. And I salute any man who has answered the call to duty by his country, (whether that call is just or unjust).

    But, I question whether there was ever any intention in the upper levels of government and even the military to win that war. Everything indicates that in spite of the efforts of the men ‘on the ground’; everything was done to simply keep the thing ticking over.

    Besides the bombing campaign issues, and the amazing complexity of the rules of engagement, often varying from region to region, and the inconvenient fact that much of the war was fought a stone’s throw from Saigon and in the delta, about as far south as you can get in Vietnam, the most telling thing to me was the widespread practise of rotating replacements through ‘front line’ units.
    The military (worldwide, but certainly the US military) have ingrained knowledge that you can only keep a unit in action for a certain amount of time, and put a certain amount of replacements in there before you should pull that unit out an rebuild it. Any other action is just ‘treading water’, and provides an almost certain result that is perpetual war.

    Who would want that? Vacillating politicians, sure. But possibly it also suits the purposes and careers of a bloated military command structure and bureaucracy. And also the industries which supply that massive machine that is the US military forces. And also the politicians and congressmen who want jobs and a working economy for their states (and the votes that come with that). And congressmen (who are not bound by the laws of insider trading in any way shape or form) who may wish to make a ‘legitimate’ buck on investing in companies they are aware are likely to get a big supply contract. And congressmen who make deals for votes in congress to further their own agendas.

    I’ve also read all I can find on that war, and one only needs a scant knowledge of the history to know that the major Vietnamese concern was to run their own country once the French were gone. OSA agents who worked closely with Ho Chi Minh and his men during and after World War Two knew very well what his aims were, and in fact in his 1945 “Declaration of Independence the very first line invokes a quote from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. http://coombs.anu.edu.au/~vern/van_kien/declar.html

    Now there were men in the south who had their own ambitions, but there was no democracy at work there. These became very corrupt puppet governments propped up by their US backers. Some OSA officers resigned because of the political stance of the USA in backing the French return after WWII.

    It would appear to be the most unlikely scenario in the world that a third world nation just emerging from years of colonization, a brutal Japanese occupation and then a brutal war to evict the returning French would bother themselves for a moment with ‘spreading communism’ to their neighbours.

  117. Alexander Feht says:
    May 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Luther Wu,
    You stopped long ago.

    ____________________
    LOL

    LazyTeenager says:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Dont believe a word of it. It’s a contrived and manipulative argument. Little more than propaganda based on pop psychology.
    ____________________
    You’re joking, right?
    While it is true that you are known to make facile and vapid arguments, you can’t possibly believe what you wrote about this thread’s intent.

    We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.
    -Thomas Jefferson

  118. Alexander Feht says:
    April 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Group-think and intolerance to criticism are notably present on both sides of the AGW conflict. It’s the human nature. Some of us are born and/or brought up as gentlemen, the others are “cattle farm intellectuals,” and the latter never learn.

    – – – – – –

    Alexander Feht,

    Mark Twain said, “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”

    Seems Mark Twain was right given your rather surprising ungentlemanly statement.

    John

  119. phlogiston says:
    May 1, 2012 at 1:49 am

    There are no “primitive” and “advanced” human cultures – this is 19th century cultural baggage. There are just human cultures. We are all the same.

    No, that’s post-modern “Progressive” baggage, also from the 19th Century (Fabianism). Deconstructionism is arrogant self-delusion, and a despicable intellectual superiority ploy.

  120. “Groupthink” is a perfect explanation of why pure democracy will always fail.

    The “group” wants “bread & circuses”? (Op cit, but you’ll all be aware of the metaphor)

    The numerous “intelligent” commenters on the broader subject would do well to subscribe to WUWT and get a grip on why “consensus” isn’t always a good thing. Even the “intelligent” need an “even moreso” to think it through for them.

    I came here as a slightly scared (warmer/not-warmer) thinker, and am content to remain so, but a better informed one.

    The proponents of AGW ought to refocus on the dwindling resources issue, because, no really, they will run out, no matter how much you don’t like that (those) big shiny windmill(s) on the hill nearest you, or the 30,000 year nastiness of radioactive waste in the mines/water-table nearest your kids/grand-kids….

  121. Tim Ball says:
    May 1, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Yes, a thorough and powerful summary of the specifics of AGW-Groupthink! I remember reading the original when it came out. Another sterling example of the phenomenon is your own exclusion and expungement from the CFP* after you called out Weaver; an interesting example of the intersection of Group Think and Lawfare, which MM is currently employing against you.
    (* to which I sent an email expressing my sympathy and contempt immediately.)

    P.S. An amusing typo above; is it in the original? “an [a] uniformed observer”. The Thought Police have uniforms? ;)

  122. John Whitman says:
    May 1, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Dear Moderator – thanks for fixing my screwed up blockquote commands. I owe you . . . . again.

    John

    Suggestions:
    Check out the CA Assistant / Greasemonkey tool. Puts icons in WP Reply boxes for all that stuff.
    Alternatively, type the opening and closing tags first, then put your content between them. Almost foolproof.

  123. Thomas Jefferson

    John Whitman says:
    May 1, 2012 at 11:55 am
    Alexander Feht says:
    April 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Group-think and intolerance to criticism are notably present on both sides of the AGW conflict. It’s the human nature. Some of us are born and/or brought up as gentlemen, the others are “cattle farm intellectuals,” and the latter never learn.

    – – – – – –

    Alexander Feht,

    Mark Twain said, “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”

    Seems Mark Twain was right given your rather surprising ungentlemanly statement.

    John

    ===============================
    One of my favorite secular quotes is,
    “Everybody’s ignorant …. only on different subjects” – Will Rogers
    When we remember we are each one of the “everybody”, it makes it easier to not think of others as “cattle”.

  124. Gypsy_Jim says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    The proponents of AGW ought to refocus on the dwindling resources issue, because, no really, they will run out, no matter how much you don’t like that (those) big shiny windmill(s) on the hill nearest you, or the 30,000 year nastiness of radioactive waste in the mines/water-table nearest your kids/grand-kids….

    No, really, they won’t. Never have, never will.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

    As for the radioactive waste, it will either be easily handled later, or used as a valuable resource. There’s something like Moore’s Law at work. For a multi-year project, use best current hardware, tight planning, and maybe finish on time. Or wait till a few months before deadline and do the whole job quickly, and better, and at 1/10 the cost, finishing at the same time. Extrapolated to centuries, much less millennia, it’s inane to assess future capacities on even steep linear extrapolations of current tech.

  125. Bernie is correct — I did discuss the virtuous corruption of climate science drawing on Janis’s concept of Groupthink back in 2007, but I think Paul does a better and more complete job of providing an exposition.

    Readers (and Paul) might also like to look at his book with Leon Mann simply called ‘Decision-Making’ (1977, I think) for other kinds of defective decision-making at the individual level. Groupthink is a kind of ‘defensive avoidance’ and there is also ‘hypervigilance.’

    But it is also worth mentioning (as I did) Festinger’s concept of cognitive dissonance, and his book (with others) ‘When Prophecy Fails’. This looks at what happens in millenarian movements when the predicted apocalypse doesn’t eventuate. As Bernie has written about so eloquently, there is a healthy does of apocalypticism in all this, and it has infected the Royal Society — witness their recent Malthusian report and election of chief apocalyptic Paul Ehrlich to a fellowship. Bernie was on to the RS even before this latest enthusiasm, and deserves credit for his work.

  126. Gunga Din says:
    When we remember we are each one of the “everybody”, it makes it easier to not think of others as “cattle”.

    I didn’t think of anybody as “cattle,” and rather agree with Will Rogers’ observation. The expression I used was “cattle farm intellectual” — it refers to people who think that using foul language in public is some form of a cute self-expression. There are many cattle farmers who are gentlemen, and there are many self-appointed “intellectuals” with too much free time on their hands who are not.

  127. Brian H says:
    May 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm
    phlogiston says:
    May 1, 2012 at 1:49 am

    There are no “primitive” and “advanced” human cultures – this is 19th century cultural baggage. There are just human cultures. We are all the same.

    No, that’s post-modern “Progressive” baggage, also from the 19th Century (Fabianism). Deconstructionism is arrogant self-delusion, and a despicable intellectual superiority ploy.

    Can you deconstruct this for me – I’m not quite with you. Am I being deconstructionist? – or is Mike Hulme of the IPCC? Thanks.

  128. Tim Ball said:

    “The relatively small group involved with the machinations of proving fossil fuels was producing CO2 that was causing warming or climate change appears to be a classic example of Groupthink. Professor Wegman in his report identified 43 people all linked in various ways, but especially publishing together and apparently peer-reviewing each other’s work that apparently constituted this group. They controlled the CRU, the critical roles of the IPCC and therefore world climate science and the resulting policies.”
    ————————————————————————–
    Tim, kudos for your work in putting all this together, but as I mentioned in my early post, it misses the point. The fact is, 43 scientists can not just take over the world’s policies on anything, ever. They were surfing a wave. Focusing on the surfboard while ignoring the wave is the Achilles’ heel of theories like the Groupthink one expounded above (which, as several commenters have pointed out, is hardly new).

    43 people all agreeing with each other is a cult nobody has ever heard of, no matter who they are. It is by tracing the genesis and building up of the wave, beginning with the environment movement of the late 1960s, reinforced by the oil shocks of the 70s, and the middle class guilt of the anti-affluence movement, mixed with a dose of wealth redistribution and a few other ingredients, that created the surge on which climate alarmism has ridden so successfully.

    The scientific groupthink was a function of the political groupthink, a situation which has numerous historical parallels. Mann et al would have been baying at the moon if there had not been many intersecting and converging external forces that enabled their ascendancy.

  129. Scottish Sceptic says:
    April 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    OK, the null hypothesis is that it is we sceptics who are the groupthinkers and are deluded and not the climate scientists…..
    _______________________________
    No, there have to be at least a half dozen or so “Climate theories” floating around WUWT alone. Someone floats a hypothesis and the rest tear it to shreds or try to. THAT is the opposite of group think.

  130. misterjohnqpublic says:
    April 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Another word for groupthink is arrogance.

    Groupthink is just too p.c. for me. I say call a spade a spade. AGW is simply a group of professionals who are too full of themselves to ever admit they were wrong….
    ___________________________
    Actually I think the word “groupthink” is a nice politically correct way of saying MOB.
    Definition of MOB.
    a large or disorderly crowd; especially : one bent on riotous or destructive action.
    a crowd bent on or engaged in lawless violence

  131. Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

    This comes back to my point, if there is only 1 degree warming, then it wont be too bad, but if its 3 or 6, it will be bad.

    Earth has had thousands of ppm CO2 in the atmosphere before. Even in the warmest periods where warming caused outgas or release of CO2 from the oceans (sort of like Henry’s Law although more complicated than literally such alone), tropical regions had lush vegetation and were quite habitable.

    We still dig up and burn fossil fuels believed to come from some of the abundant, lush vegetation of the age of the dinosaurs.

    There is evidence that average sea surface temperatures near the equator have never been more than a degree or two Celsius warmer in the past billion years at least, IIRC (probably never). Not only does radiative heat loss go up with temperature to the fourth power (T^4) but also more water evaporation forms clouds which reflect more sunlight. Earth would never have stayed comfortable for life throughout the eons (aside from cold periods less favorable to life than warm periods) if it was a system dominated by excessive instability rather than actually much negative feedback stabilization.

    Regarding sea level rise, it is impossible for the bulk of ice in Antarctica to melt faster than over centuries upon centuries minimum in any scenario, a result of its sheer thickness. Pretending merely for the sake of argument that it all melted vast ages from now, gradual loss of some current coastal lands over eons would be counterbalanced by new land becoming available for practical settlement in a warmer Antarctica itself, and coastal cities, like other cities and other technology, are renovated on far faster timescales anyway. Only in a small minuscule percentage of total residences do we use almost anything older than even a single century in construction. But that is merely for the sake of argument.

    One illustration of the real picture in contrast is this:

    So much for the grandness (or not!) of late 20th century warming in even a little part of proper context.

    (With Asian industrialization and all else, global human emissions increased throughout the whole period, from CO2 to aerosols, but the above is unsurprising compared to a graph I made in other context: http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/319xq.jpg discussed more at the end of http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/11/does-co2-correlate-with-temperature-history-a-look-at-multiple-timescales-in-the-context-of-the-shakun-et-al-paper/ ).

    Aside from all else, how about waiting for the equivalent of that graph to look more than a little different, pretending it ever did in a way favoring CAGW, before embarking on measures of vast cost…

    Also, average sea level rise rates in the second half 20th century were no more than about those in the first half of the 20th century or even in the late 19th century, since the end of the Little Ice Age, despite how human emissions rose more than a factor of 10 over that period:

    http://meteo.lcd.lu/globalwarming/Holgate/sealevel_change_poster_holgate.pdf

    Even the IPCC’s sea level rise rate graph (in the 2007 report IIRC) is rather similar to that in the above link if one looks closely, although they try hard to keep you from noticing; in fact, the low end of their estimate range for predictions of sea level rise over the 21st century by the year 2100 A.D. is merely comparable to the few inches in the 20th century, despite vast differences in human emissions.

    There are pages upon pages more that could be written to better show matters, including more fully why future temperature rise even as a global average would be under 1 degree anyway in reality, but I am reminded of how rarely it is productive to argue with someone on the internet. Still, continuing a bit:

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

    The “fix” might have to be geoengineering, but scientists don’t like messing with the earth, and would rather a carbon tax.

    Not “messing with the earth” is a belief of some environmentalists. Dr. Edward Teller, a real scientist, a brilliant physicist known colloquially as the father of the hydrogen bomb (someone I trust more than any CAGW-supporting environmentalist “scientist” who has never demonstrated true skill even aside from the honesty matter), estimated that the cost of geoengineering by stratospheric reflective particulates would be on the order of under 1% the cost of attempting to do so by means of CO2. The common claim (dishonesty) that any geoengineering would suddenly cause catastrophic net harm without warning, without prior observation of effects, is based on a fallacy which is readily debunked: Any done would be ramped up gradually over a number of years, not going from no effect to huge effect instantly. I don’t literally particularly support geoengineering for cooling (and AFAIK don’t think Dr. Teller necessarily did either), especially since warmer periods are better for agriculture and humanity anyway, but the point is that, if it was done, a global CO2 regime would be an inferior way of attempting it.

    A carbon tax wouldn’t end the CO2 already in the atmosphere even if one pretended unrealistically that China cut their emissions lifting their people out of poverty (with China already by far the #1 emitter, with India and more to follow later), even if did much other than get more industry to flee the E.U. or U.S. to countries like China. However, pretending for the sake of argument that there was CO2 reduction, the main thing it would do is harm plant growth. Study after study has shown major rise in plant growth and water usage efficiency occurs under elevated CO2, aside from in some cases other limiting nutrients preventing that but still overall benefit.

    There was a 5% rise in net primary productivity observed by satellites over the past 3 decades despite all other factors. Estimated global vegetation biomass in terms of carbon content increased from around 740 billion tons in 1910 A.D. to around 780 billion tons in 1990 A.D.:

    Some of that is from warming too, aside from and in addition to the CO2 increase, but that has also been beneficial.

    Random example:

    Response of Growth and Yield of Rice (Oryza sativa) to Elevated Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide in the Subhumid Zone of Sri Lanka:

    Increasing atmospheric CO2 is recognized as a major aspect of global climate change that would have a significant impact on the productivity of major agricultural crops. Two field experiments were done, with the objective of quantifying the response of a short-duration rice (Oryza sativa) variety (BG-300) to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, in the low elevation, subhumid zone of Sri Lanka. Grain yields of rice crops grown under elevated CO2 were 24 % and 39 % greater than the respective ambient treatments in the maha (January – March 2001) and yala (May – August, 2001) seasons. The results of this study demonstrate that elevated CO2 causes significant yield increases in rice, even when it is grown in warm, subhumid tropical climates.

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118887984/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    A lot more discussion with many paper references is at:

    http://nipccreport.org/reports/2011/pdf/07TerrestrialPlants.pdf

    Severe CO2 reduction would be geoengineering while worse than other methods: an ideological choice with huge negative side consequences for the biosphere (loss of plant growth), complex interactions with the biosphere (unlike the simpler case of some reflective dust in the stratosphere), and astronomical cost and ineffectiveness.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Put it this way, solar molten salt power stations which work during the night and day, is only a little bit more expensive than coal power. But with a carbon tax, coal power will go up in costs and solar molten salt power stations will become a cheaper option.

    Over some years the mass production of this green technology will make it cheaper and at the same time will reduce the need to buy expensive coal. So at the end you get cheaper and cleaner electricity, like I said, pay a little to mitigate the risks, and reduce the chance of a 3 or even 6 degree warming and get sustainable renewable cheaper electricity. :)

    Actually I think solar power has much potential in the future, and, although my view on it is more based on potential technological improvements than current economics (as in really competitive as opposed to only in a world of higher energy costs with competitor prices raised by carbon taxes), I’ll accordingly skip what could be said otherwise.

    But CO2 emissions relate to far more than electricity generation anyway. In fact, producing iron and cement are among major sources. Also, CO2 regulations would harm development of shale oil as a substitute for imported oil; there is extra CO2 released in the production process. Even the domestic shale gas production expansion of today is opposed by the types of environmentalist groups which build the CAGW movement.

    Besides, top groups allied with, supported by, and largely comprising the CAGW movement aren’t really about reducing CO2 alone so much as using that as a lever to try to encourage and someday enforce low material consumption under their general form of environmentalist ideology (where “low material consumption” and “low energy consumption” are ways of not more frankly saying “poverty”). After Germany’s environmentalist Green Party got more influence, they have started a policy to shut down their nuclear reactors, even though that is actually leading to more fossil fuel power generation, which demonstrates strongly how even reducing CO2 is really secondary to their overall goals anyway (although they’d love the kind of power over industry that international CO2 regulation would give them).

    Many articles:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=germany+coal+power

    ——

    edit:

    RACookPE1978’s post at May 1, 2012 at 11:20am makes some good points; technically, I don’t agree with all of the exact language used, but, short of mere nitpicking, that doesn’t matter for the general theme, which highlights well some additional aspects to the matter.

  132. Gail Combs said:

    Actually I think the word “groupthink” is a nice politically correct way of saying MOB.
    Definition of MOB.
    a large or disorderly crowd; especially : one bent on riotous or destructive action.
    a crowd bent on or engaged in lawless violence
    ——————————————————————
    Sorry Gail, I must respectfully disagree. Disorderly crowds bent on violence are nothing to do with groupthink, or in-group-out-group, or any of the other many descriptions of why people in groups conform. You may wish to note that these descriptions relate to behaviour in organisational or structured environments, not to street mobs.

  133. markx says:
    May 1, 2012 at 11:39 am:

    I pretty much agree with everything you wrote. Except for your last paragraph:

    “It would appear to be the most unlikely scenario in the world that a third world nation just emerging from years of colonization, a brutal Japanese occupation and then a brutal war to evict the returning French would bother themselves for a moment with ‘spreading communism’ to their neighbours.”

    How is that any different from China vs Taiwan? Communism’s #1 goal is to spread itself. The hardship of the proletariat is of no account. Ideology is all, and that is the danger. You can see the same ideology in the EPA, in Obama, in the Department of Education, in academia, etc. They are all totally opposed to American values and American exceptionalism.

    The goal is an unelected, unaccountable government ruling over the American people, just like the EU does in Europe.

  134. Well done! Great article!

    Groupthink phenomenon, is a disorder too..

    Its dysfunction precedes itself.

    ~Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  135. Mods I haven’t been on here for a while. But one of my comments might have been lost to spam. THank you for checking.

    ~Chris

  136. Smokey says:
    May 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    The goal is an unelected, unaccountable government ruling over the American people, just like the EU does in Europe.

    =========

    You are 1000% correct on that assumption, Smokey.

    ~Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  137. re: “The answer to the second part of my friend’s question—“Has there ever been another case where so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?”—is easy. Yes, … (e.g., that the continents can’t “drift,” that Newton’s laws were immutable, and hundreds if not thousands of others).”

    Not really.

    There was never a continents can’t drift theory, with hundreds of thousands of scholarly papers on the subject like there is on climate change. Continental drift wasn’t known, and then it was. A large body of scientific research wasn’t overturned.

    And while Newton’s laws were not compatible with Maxwell’s equations, so it was known that there was some problem, this is not like climate science.

    Climate science isn’t a fundamental law of physics, it’s a study of the application of the fundamental laws of physics on the earth’s system. It’s not going to be right or wrong, it’s going to be accurate to within a margin of error.

    So I don’t think that either of these is the easy yes you were looking for. Climate science is as old as the theory of Evolution. It’s been well studied and well argued over. It’s still being researched, but the basic tenets aren’t going to be overthrown at this late stage any more than those of Evolution are.

  138. There are some 76 recorded public alarm phenomenon since 1790, 26 of these are directly analogous with AGW. Google Armstrong and Green for their excellent research paper and conclusions.

  139. Smokey says:May 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    How is that any different from China? Communism’s #1 goal is to spread itself. The hardship of the proletariat is of no account. Ideology is all, and that is the danger. You can see the same ideology in the EPA, in Obama, in the Department of Education, in academia, etc. They are all totally opposed to American values and American exceptionalism.

    Smokey, I’m not sure that is the #1 goal these days, but have you been to China or Vietnam lately? Truly vibrant examples of capitalism at work. A bureaucratic and redtape nightmare, but not much different to Australia in that regard!

    The Vietnamese have always surprised me with their admiration of the USA. I guess it is not so surprising in the south, but the calm tolerance and acceptance of the older generation who saw their countrymen die in millions, and are still searching for their missing, is humbling. The younger generation just seem to like things US and western.

    China too surprises me: I was in a small town in Hubei province not long ago and had only Chinese channels on the TV while I did some computer work. The first show I saw was a commentary on the naval war in the Pacific in WWII – lots of black and white film, of aircraft carriers and heavy naval ships, some film I could recognise and some I’d never seen, (quite a lot of onboard film from Japanese ships), culminating in film and animations of the sinking of the Yamamato (I could recognise that!)….. Seemed to be a full commentary of the Pacific Naval battles – and seemed to me it would only show the US in a good light to the average citizen. (IMHO – note I could not understand a word).

    Then (on a different channel) an overdubbed episode of “Making the Cut” or something like that. US military Special forces? Again, it made the US military look pretty damn impressive, to me and probably to the average Chinese citizen. Next visit I caught a bit of a movie about brave Chinese locals saving a brave downed American: “Flying Tiger” in WWII.

    And in my field, much to my surprise, bigger operations in China much prefer to buy quality branded American (and some European) equipment to buying the much cheaper locally made stuff.

    All very uplifting, but you are I think correct to worry re China. I don’t think Vietnam is showing many signs of wanting to politically manipulate their neighbours, but China, I’m not so sure about.

    I fear they may well emulate the USA they admire so much, and meddle on an extensive and worldwide basis, perhaps more with an eye to economics and influence rather than ideology.

  140. Jim Masterson says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 am

    “You’re invoking the precautionary principle.”

    Yes I am. With almost all the science saying we are going to get warming, most of it saying in the range of 2-4.5 degrees Celsius, the precautionary principle should not even be used, we should be using the logical principle. There is only a couple of papers which have nearly all been disproved, that state there will be a 1 degree Celsius warming.

    RACookPE1978 says:
    May 1, 2012 at 11:20 am

    “Activity = More CO2 in atmosphere”

    Short term studies have shown extra CO2 is good, but there are lots of studies that show increased pest attacks and decreased root allocation. This resent study shows even more problems. (http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123798&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click) And let’s not forget that the scientific community is saying that increased CO2 will drive up temperatures, so even if extra CO2 was good, you have to consider the extra warming which has been shown to kill off plants.

    “Activity = Control of Energy and CO2 by Decree, Fear of CAGW Crisis
    Result = Death of millions from malnutrition”

    Can you show one study that even remotely states that?

    “Activity = Increases in the world’s temperature by 1 degree, of 2 degree, of 3 degree.
    Activity = Increase of Temp’s of 4 degrees, of 5 degrees, of 6 degrees.”

    I don’t have time to explain the implications of global warming, I’ll let National geographic do it for me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rdLu7wiZOE&feature=relmfu

    Henry Clark says:
    May 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    “Earth has had thousands of ppm CO2 in the atmosphere before.”

    I see from this statement you have very little understanding of past climate. Over the last half billion years the sun has increased its heating power by 4% and I believe has gotten 30% brighter. If CO2 was 280ppm half a billion years ago, the Earth would have been a frozen waste land, but CO2 was 8000ppm at that time. So they did a study and found that throughout this half billion years of climate history, you have to add up the suns output and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to get the temperature of the planet. This is why they call CO2 the control knob governing the temperature of the Earth. These studies “I think” also disprove the cosmic ray claim. Below you will find the paper that look at CO2 over the last half billion years and the paper that correlated it with the suns output.

    (http://tinyurl.com/6u65g8l http://droyer.web.wesleyan.edu/GSA_Today.pdf)

    (http://www.skepticalscience.com/images/Phanerozoic_Forcing.gif http://droyer.web.wesleyan.edu/PhanCO2%28GCA%29.pdf)

    “http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ArcticIce/Images/arctic_temp_trends_rt.gif”

    You need to look at the big picture not little ones

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8236797.stm

    “There are pages upon pages more that could be written to better show matters, including more fully why future temperature rise even as a global average would be under 1 degree”

    You may be able to type pages and pages but why not reference the papers that show a 1 degree warming from a doubling of CO2, because you are only going to find a couple. Most disproved.

    “Not “messing with the earth” is a belief of some environmentalists.”

    You want to reduce the amount of sun hitting the Earth and you don’t think that is messing with it? How could you know the long term consequences of that. Also what if it is bad and we have to stop? The CO2 you want to keep on pumping into the air will still be there and the Earth will still be warming. If the scientific community is right we need to reduce CO2 and use geoengineering as a last resort.

    “Study after study has shown major rise in plant growth and water usage efficiency occurs under elevated CO2″

    Lots of bad things happen to plants due to warmer weather, migrations of bugs and root allocation from increased CO2. Let’s keep on looking at science to answer these questions.

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123798&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click

    “Severe CO2 reduction would be geoengineering”

    You are looking at CO2 as only beneficial, science says CO2 will raise temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius. Either way we just want CO2 to be at natural levels.

    “But CO2 emissions relate to far more than electricity generation anyway. In fact, producing iron and cement are among major sources.”

    If electricity becomes much cheaper due to reduced coal costs in producing it, electric cars will be cheaper to run than petrol cars. All activities that use lots of electricity will not be producing CO2 because they will be using solar power. The limited number of activities that do produce CO2, we are just going to have to try and reduce them and get the people that do these activities to planet trees to reduce their carbon foot print.

    [Moderator’s Note: this discussion is getting way-off the topic of this thread. Take it to a more appropriate forum. -REP]

  141. Groupthink at the individual level, whether of the religious faith, collectivist, true believer, or any other such group idea, seems close to the trance state written about by the hypnotist Dave Elman back in the 1940s and 50s. He defined a trance state as the suspension of the critical faculty with the adaption of selective thinking. That seems to fit what is happening with some contemporary scientists.

  142. Michael Whittemore, your irrelevant spamming is not winning you any points, but is clogging up this thread. Please go away.

  143. johanna says:
    May 2, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Why don’t you point out the irrelevances of it then.

  144. Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    There is only a couple of papers which have nearly all been disproved, that state there will be a 1 degree Celsius warming.

    No, aside there being a lot more than two papers as discussed later in this comment, one of the basic aspects of the overall picture is that already a 280 ppm (pre-industrial) –> ~ 393 ppm CO2 rise has been seen, a rise of 40%. Even attributing all temperature rise since the Little Ice Age to CO2 (incorrectly) would not remotely validate inflated climate sensitivity claims. More to the point, such as http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/319xq.jpg highlights how far less than the total 20th century temperature rise was reasonable to attribute to humans as opposed to nature. The prior graph is up to 1980 A.D. in that example since using ice core data but such as UAH satellite data like http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/ shows the limited amount since then.

    Part of the problem with claims like 6 degrees Celsius from CO2 doubling is that we are already 40% of the way to doubling from pre-industrial levels while at most only a small fraction of a degree Celsius temperature rise has occurred as net from human emissions. The whole 0.6 degrees or so rise over the 20th century can not be attributed to humans alone, like the graph highlights.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    You are looking at CO2 as only beneficial, science says CO2 will raise temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius.

    “Science” does not say such as CO2 going from 1.4x of pre-industrial levels to 2x of pre-industrial levels would cause 3 degrees Celsius rise, when observations rather show that CO2 going from 1.0x of pre-industrial levels to 1.4x of pre-industrial levels (now) did not cause 1/10th of that in net effect of human emissions beyond what can be attributed to natural factors. You’ll probably say delayed effects from ocean warming, but historical observations place limits on those too.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Short term studies have shown extra CO2 is good, but there are lots of studies that show increased pest attacks and decreased root allocation. This resent study shows even more problems.

    Not choosing nitrogen-poor soil and rather adding artificial nitrogen-containing fertilizer would be a totally different situation.

    That can be contrasted to, for example, my example which you skipped over:

    Two field experiments were done, with the objective of quantifying the response of a short-duration rice (Oryza sativa) variety (BG-300) to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, in the low elevation, subhumid zone of Sri Lanka. Grain yields of rice crops grown under elevated CO2 were 24 % and 39 % greater than the respective ambient treatments in the maha (January – March 2001) and yala (May – August, 2001) seasons.

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118887984/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    Commercial greenhouse operators sometimes spend serious money to elevate CO2 concentrations because it works in the real world (and yes you do add more artificial fertilizer if needed to sustain growth, with extra biomass naturally requiring more nitrogen input if a particular site has nitrogen-poor soil).

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    And let’s not forget that the scientific community is saying that increased CO2 will drive up temperatures, so even if extra CO2 was good, you have to consider the extra warming which has been shown to kill off plants.

    With “global” warming being predominately arctic and near-arctic warming, there was greater biomass, the opposite of plants being killed off, in warm periods like the Holocene Climate Optimum and Eocene.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    >>“Earth has had thousands of ppm CO2 in the atmosphere before.”
    I see from this statement you have very little understanding of past climate. Over the last half billion years the sun has increased its heating power by 4% and I believe has gotten 30% brighter.

    No, 30% brighter would be approximately the figure for solar brightness now versus 4 billion years ago, many times different than just a half billion years ago compared to now. Also, a half billion years ago is your figure, as CO2 was at thousands of ppm more recently than that.

    In the past few hundred million years, the sun’s brightness increasing over time is only what would in itself cause approximately a linear rise rate of 1.7 K per 550 million years. For instance, such is implicitly mentioned within the caption of figure 1 of Shaviv, 2005:

    http://www.phys.huji.ac.il/~shaviv/articles/sensitivity.pdf

    For example, if the sun’s brightness in such terms was now like it was 150 million years ago, the temperature would be on the order of 0.5 K degrees cooler than now, all else being equal. That’s not a big difference.

    CO2 was thousands of ppm around that far back.

    An example far further back, four billion years ago, regarding the faint early sun paradox:

    Professor Minik Rosing, from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, and Christian Bjerrum, from the Department of Geography and Geology at University of Copenhagen, together with American colleagues from Stanford University in California have discovered the reason for “the missing ice age” back then, thereby solving the Sun paradox, which has haunted scientific circles for more than 40 years. Professor Minik Rosing explains: “What prevented an ice age back then was not high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, but the fact that the cloud layer was much thinner than it is today. In addition to this, Earth’s surface was covered by water. This meant that the Sun’s rays could warm the oceans unobstructed, which in turn could layer the heat, thereby preventing Earth’s watery surface from freezing into ice.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331141415.htm

    (Clouds raise Earth’s albedo, Earth’s reflectivity; low-altitude clouds cause net cooling and high-altitude clouds net warming, but the overall effect was more warmth than would be the case if there were more clouds back then).

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    So they did a study and found that throughout this half billion years of climate history, you have to add up the suns output and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to get the temperature of the planet. This is why they call CO2 the control knob governing the temperature of the Earth. These studies “I think” also disprove the cosmic ray claim. Below you will find the paper that look at CO2 over the last half billion years and the paper that correlated it with the suns output.
    (http://tinyurl.com/6u65g8l http://droyer.web.wesleyan.edu/GSA_Today.pdf)

    Other studies have gotten different results and conclusions. I do not only mean such as Dr. Shaviv’s http://cfa.atmos.washington.edu/2003Q4/211/articles_optional/CelestialDriver.pdf but also, for instance: Dr. Rothman of MIT: http://www.pnas.org/content/99/7/4167.full.pdf

    There is some partial correlation of CO2 with temperatures, as to be expected regardless of how small a radiative forcing effect results from CO2 because one factor in CO2 levels is outgassing from the oceans when such are warmed, if warmed by any cause (not having to be predominately CO2 as a cause). Although more complicated than this analogy, even if one warms a glass of milk, it will outgas dissolved gases (nitrogen, oxygen, etc). Much correlation is not always seen, though. On short timescales, the oceans have centuries of lag time to warm to their depths. On very long time scales, weathering and magmatic processes particularly also affect CO2 levels.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    This is why they call CO2 the control knob governing the temperature of the Earth.

    Here’s how much it actually is a so-called “control knob” (or not!):

    Past 200 to 11000 years ago (Greenland ice core temperatures but the arctic and near-arctic regions warming more than tropical regions in every warm period as previously discussed so not a bad sample):

    with data from

    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/greenland/summit/gisp2/isotopes/gisp2_temp_accum_alley2000.txt
    and
    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/epica_domec/edc-co2.txt

    Why CO2 and temperatures correlate much on medium timescales but not all is discussed in

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/11/does-co2-correlate-with-temperature-history-a-look-at-multiple-timescales-in-the-context-of-the-shakun-et-al-paper/

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    You need to look at the big picture not little ones
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8236797.stm

    First of all, such is skipping over the fact that http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ArcticIce/Images/arctic_temp_trends_rt.gif shows the late 1930s had as high temperatures in the arctic as the late 20th century, with a huge temperature decline after the former, which only fits such being dominated by natural variation (including solar activity, GCR variation, the PDO, etc.); human emissions increased over the whole period, including Asian industrialization and all else.

    Secondly, I can do better than just the past 2000 years. Instead of comparing to 2000 years ago, I can compare to 8000 years ago, like http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/11/does-co2-correlate-with-temperature-history-a-look-at-multiple-timescales-in-the-context-of-the-shakun-et-al-paper/ highlighted in part, including a link to http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc.html on it being warmer then than now.

    I could add studies on amounts of biomass in the fossil record at high latitudes, a meter or two (IIRC) higher sea level seen even in a study in Australia, and other indirect further illustrators of how temperatures then were more than now. But there would not be much point. I have never even encountered any CAGW-type environmentalist type honest enough to admit to being wrong about anything or change their views, so I really only argue for the benefit of an audience, and, since this page is no longer on the front page, no longer current, there is not much of an outside audience of readers left now.

    Still, quickly going on:

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    Also what if it is bad and we have to stop?

    The residence time of stratospheric particulates is typically a few months, for the relevant sub-micron size.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    Lots of bad things happen to plants due to warmer weather, migrations of bugs and root allocation from increased CO2.

    That warm climates have more insect life and bugs than cold and arctic zones does not remotely reverse the overall fact that the former has more life, more biomass growth in general including plants, even after some losses to insects. I can’t at all respect the honesty level of the CAGW movement trying to give people the opposite impression.

    Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    You may be able to type pages and pages but why not reference the papers that show a 1 degree warming from a doubling of CO2, because you are only going to find a couple.

    A lot more than a couple. As Dr. Spencer notes, as have others:

    Now, you might be surprised to learn that the amount of warming directly caused by the extra CO2 is, by itself, relatively weak. It has been calculated theoretically that, if there are no other changes in the climate system, a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would cause less than 1 deg C of surface warming (about 1 deg. F). This is NOT a controversial statement…it is well understood by climate scientists. (As of 2008, we were about 40% to 45% of the way toward a doubling of atmospheric CO2.)

    BUT…everything this else in the climate system probably WON’T stay the same! For instance, clouds, water vapor, and precipitation systems can all be expected to respond to the warming tendency in some way, which could either amplify or reduce the manmade warming. These other changes are called “feedbacks,” and the sum of all the feedbacks in the climate system determines what is called ‘climate sensitivity’.

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-101/

    Any paper, any observation that shows net negative feedback overall in the climate system is in utter contrast to there being more than 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise from doubling CO2. To claim more temperature rise depends, among other things, on claiming net positive feedback overriding all negative feedbacks combined. Incidentally, cloud formation can be an example of negative feedback, such as a day with (reflective, shading) clouds overhead being cooler than a day with a cloudless sky typically (with the difference for low altitude versus high altitude clouds on net cooling versus warming noted before). Historical observations also can counter the claims of high warming from CO2.

    For some illustrations, not at all a comprehensive list (since I don’t even get paid a cent for this, like almost all the skeptics here and elsewhere, contrary to the dishonest CAGW-side claims of billions of bucks being handed out for skepticism) but some quick examples:

    How much CO2 really contributes to global warming? Spectroscopic studies and modelling of the influence of H2O, CO2 and CH4 on our climate.

    http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2011/EGU2011-4505-1.pdf

    On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/Lindzen-and-Choi-GRL-2009.pdf

    On Climate Response to Changes in the Cosmic Ray Flux and Radiative Budget

    http://www.phys.huji.ac.il/%7Eshaviv/articles/2004JA010866.pdf

    Does the earth have an adaptive infrared iris?

    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20000081750_2000118209.pdf

    CO2-induced global warming
    http://www.int-res.com/articles/cr/10/c010p069.pdf

    Testing an astronomically-based decadal-scale empirical harmonic climate model versus the IPCC (2007) general circulation climate models

    http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/Scafetta_models_comparison_ATP.pdf

    On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications.
    www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/236-Lindzen-Choi-2011.pdf

    Empirical evidence for a celestial origin of the climate oscillations and its implications.

    http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/scafetta-JSTP2.pdf

    How natural is the recent centennial warming?

    http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/uploads/media/How_natural.pdf

    There is also:

    http://www.space.dtu.dk/upload/institutter/space/forskning/05_afdelinger/sun-climate/full_text_publications/svensmark_2007cosmoclimatology.pdf

    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/SvensmarkPaper.pdf

    http://www.sciencebits.com/OnClimateSensitivity

    And even my http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/319xq.jpg graph is in utter contrast in implications to high temperature rise from CO2 … Loethle temperature data and Dye 3 Be-10 cosmic ray flux data from Beer et al. 1994.

    I don’t agree with everything said in all of the previously linked papers, but that’s a sample anyway, most of those pretty good. There is an attempt at “rebuttal” against almost any CAGW-inconvenient climate paper, but sciencebits.com covers some examples of invalid tactics utilized.

    [Moderator’s Note: this discussion is getting way-off the topic of this thread. Take it to a more appropriate forum. -REP]

  145. Michael Whittemore says:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    You are looking at CO2 as only beneficial, science says CO2 will raise temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius. Either way we just want CO2 to be at natural levels.

    Michael, whenever I’ve asked for the science that Carbon Dioxide is capable of raising the Earth’s temperature, it’s never forthcoming. This might or might not bother you, it bothered me and when I explored this aspect I found only obfuscation. I continued to investigate and found something very interesting, the physics of the ‘greenhouse gas energy budget’ cartoon, is completely made up of fictional fisics. Such as, for example, the AGW claim that visible light heats land and oceans and that the claim that the real direct heat from the Sun which is long wave, thermal infrared, doesn’t even reach the surface and plays no part in heating said land and oceans. This is impossible in the real world.

    The bottom line is that the claimed 33°C warming is a sleight of hand, because this comic cartoon energy budget has excised completely the Water Cycle, which cools the Earth, think deserts.

    All the ‘science’ produced to bolster that sleight of hand is therefore, it cannot be anything else, irrelevant, because the basic premise that ‘greenhouse gases raise the Earth’s temperature’ doesn’t actually exist.

    [Moderator’s Note: this discussion is getting way-off the topic of this thread. Take it to a more appropriate forum. -REP]

  146. Apologies to moderators for letting it get off-topic. I will post no more in this thread (though, Myrrh, see http://www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-101/ from a fellow skeptic for an example of what you may want to argue instead differently, in another thread anyway).

    [REPLY: Thank you for our consideration. On-topic comments are always welcome, of course. -REP]

  147. How can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong about [global warming] (if your [skeptical] premise is correct). I don’t think it could be a conspiracy, or incompetence. … Has there ever been another case when so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?

    The conspiracy has been proved – and well covered in the various aspects of this on WUWT – incompetence is the missing element, but there are two sides to this.

    The first is readily seen in the work of those like Singer and Spencer, without any proof that CO2 can do what they claim they continue to pontificate as if the proof exists, and, without any grasp of the relevant applied science in the real world they argue for a fisics in their fictional world where, for example, ‘backradiation’ is given as the means for this claimed ability of carbon dioxide to raise Earth’s temperature, quite regardless that this ‘backradiation’ breaks the 2nd Law and is never seen to exist in any real world industries. They think they know better than the experts in particular fields. Incompetence and arrogance.

    This peculiar manufactured fisics of AGW was brought into the education system deliberately, so now a generation has been educated to think the real world works according to the AGW created fictional fisics. We now have an equally incompetent number of younger scientists working on ‘climate change’ who also have no idea of what they’re talking about, and their studies and experiments show this, and, that population is bolstered by scientists in all other fields taking this AGWScience Fiction as if real world physics, which if it doesn’t affect them they have no particular interest in inquiring further but so add to the ‘consensus’ by not questioning it.

    The consensus thus, has grown out of incompetence and ignorance. Sure, there may well be a huge number of people who promote CAGW with religious zeal, but the majority of people simply take it on trust. Why shouldn’t they?

    We expect competence from those claiming to be experts and most of the time trust in that is not misplaced; our bridges don’t collapse, our illnesses are cured, the engines don’t fall out of our cars after being serviced. When we get to know of incompetence or even deliberate malpractice we stop trusting. What we have in ‘climate change’ is a continual cover up of the malpractice because this is our natural reaction. The majority, scientists and lay, never get to hear about it or get to hear only the whitewashed version.

    The consensus is mainly illusion created out of ignorance and trust in the ‘incompetence of scientists who should know better’, by default as it were.

  148. >>
    Eric Adler says:
    April 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Also, despite the fact that people who don’t accept evolution, are ridiculed by scientists, there are many people in the US who are smart enough to know it is a fraud.
    <<

    Although Paul MacRae’s post on groupthink is interesting, I don’t think it explains all that’s going on. Generally, the individuals who support evolution theory also tend to support AGW. And those individuals that oppose evolution theory also seem to oppose AGW. There’s a third group, like myself, who support evolution theory and oppose AGW. (I suppose there’s a fourth group that supports AGW and opposes evolution theory.)

    I remember back in the days of 300 baud/1200 baud modems, we only had UseNet groups. I was a member of the CompuServe forums then.

    On one forum, there were a group of us who would correct any misconceptions about evolution theory. So a theist would appear– fresh out of an anti-evolution sales meeting–and provide the usual attacks: Evolution is only a theory; Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics; and so on. We would correct his misconceptions and after a while he would go away–probably more frustrated than convinced.

    Then around the mid-1990’s, a new group of believers appeared. They were espousing this new theory of “Global Warming.” I’d had studied enough paleontology to know that past climates were both much warmer and much colder than present. Their comments didn’t ring true. Also, they sounded exactly like the anti-evolutionary theists that we had been debating–naive comments about scientific theories and laws.

    I, of course, pointed out these facts and expected my colleagues (partners in crime) to follow suit. They didn’t. In fact, they seemed to completely support everything these new GW supporters had to say.

    So in a very short time, I went from one of the in crowd to an outsider. I’m a group transvestite.

    Jim

  149. Alexander Feht says:
    May 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm
    Gunga Din says:
    When we remember we are each one of the “everybody”, it makes it easier to not think of others as “cattle”.

    I didn’t think of anybody as “cattle,” and rather agree with Will Rogers’ observation. The expression I used was “cattle farm intellectual” — it refers to people who think that using foul language in public is some form of a cute self-expression. There are many cattle farmers who are gentlemen, and there are many self-appointed “intellectuals” with too much free time on their hands who are not.
    ====================================
    If I aimed my comment at you in error, my humble apolgogies.

  150. I challenge the statement that “the best and the brightest in the world’s financial sphere” caused the recession by making dumb loans.

    Certainly there were people out of control, like the mortgage department of Washington Mutual.
    But the root cause was political.

    For a long time, through both political stripes, the US government coerced lenders into lowering standards, enticed borrowers into taking on more than they could afford, and ran a ponzi-like scheme of increasing numbers in its massive agencies like Fannie Mae.

  151. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/30/why-climate-science-is-a-textbook-example-of-

    groupthink/#comment-973925

    Keith Sketchley says:
    May 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm
    For a long time, through both political stripes, the US government coerced lenders into

    lowering standards, enticed borrowers into taking on more than they could afford, and ran a ponzi

    -like scheme of increasing numbers in its massive agencies like Fannie Mae.

    Because, the banking cartel controls the government handling of their interests, and their interests are to create booms and busts from which they mop up all the properties mortgaged as well as any monies already repaid, it’s a win/win for them, plus, they’ve already sold on their interests to the mortgages so have covered the original debt, and, because they create money out of debt they have in place an amazing system whereby they can lend out ten times the debt on a mortgage, money which isn’t there, which they don’t have. The ponzi scheme was the other banks buying from the original mortgage owner bank and then claiming that as a percentage of money they could then times by x amount and loan out as well as selling on the mortgage to the next bank which did their own multiplications to create money out of nothing. What other business can create money out of nothing? No wonder they own as much as they do and are set to buy up the world, it’s monopoly money with practically unlimited printing.

    The Federal Reserve is a private company owned by the banking cartel, they print money and sell this to the US government which then pays the cartel interest which they get from taxes – the IRS is a private company of the cartel solely employed to collect the interest, all taxes go to pay the interest. It’s always blame the victim consensus..

  152. @ polistra
    ============================
    April 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm
    The question by the “anonymous friend” isn’t the important one. Anyone who has worked in or around any branch of science or scholarship knows of many bad theories that were, or still are, held by the majority of paid professionals despite being transparently wrong. That’s NORMAL.

    The important question is why this one theory about CO2 acquired the status of a worldwide religion and took over ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING for twenty years. No other belief of any sort, right or wrong, political or religious, has ever gained such TOTAL AND COMPLETE worldwide POWER. Not Christianity, not Islam, not Communism, not Fascism. Those were all regional, moderate and arguable compared to the CO2 theory.
    ============================
    I think one reason the AGW myth acquired such status was that most of the mass media have had essentially one voice for a couple of decades. The Internet, more often than not, has the effect of making the world smaller due to the quickness and ease of communication. Of course, the people who crafted the myth were probably aware that weather is one of the things most people talk about regularly. And in history, didn’t the ruling classes use weather to reinforce their power–unless it totally took them by surprise and destroyed them without warning, of course!

    If you want a worldwide government, create a scary myth about something that concerns everyone in the world. Weather fills the bill! Then tell everyone you alone have the solution to the problem. Tell them if they put you in charge, their troubles are over. It’s a no-brainer.
    /sarc off

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