It’s Not About Me

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

One response to Christopher Booker graciously mentioning my work in the Telegraph is the predictable increase in the usual personal attacks on me, as opposed to attacking my ideas and claims. People are rehashing Tim Lambert calling me a liar because he disagreed with my methods, as though that meant something about me rather than simply revealing something about Tim. They point out that I am an amateur scientist (as though that were other than a badge of honor). I’m told that I’m out of my depth. I am constantly assured that I am not qualified to offer a scientific opinion on climate, because of my lack of academic qualifications (BA in Psychology), and because of the shortness of my scientific publications list. The supply of reasons given to try to convince people to ignore my work is seemingly endless. To hear people tell it, I’m not fit to kiss the boots of a true scientist.

My point is that none of that matters. Either my scientific claims are correct, or they are not. It’s not about me. Period. End of story.

Photo Source

When I was younger, for decades I was a Zen Buddhist. There is an important saying that Zen is not the moon, it is just the finger pointing at the moon. Complaints, arguments, and discussions about the finger miss the point – the subject of importance, the subject worthy of discussion, is the moon.

That’s the ultimate egalitarianism of science. Doesn’t matter if the person who made a scientific claim is a world-renowned expert or a semi-literate ditch digger. They are just the finger pointing at the moon. All that matters is, can the claim be falsified? What are the facts that support the claim? What are the facts that falsify the claim? Is the logic correct? Is the mathematics solidly based? Does it agree with other understandings?

Whether I lie (I don’t), or whether I have peer-reviewed publications (yes, three with a fourth currently in peer-review) is immaterial. All that matters is, are my ideas right or wrong? That’s why I put my ideas up here in the public square, so someone can falsify them. That’s the game called science. I make scientific claims, and you try to poke holes in my claims. Or you make scientific claims, and I try to poke holes in your claims. I play the game from both sides, falsifying the claims of others as well as publishing original and falsifiable claims of my own for people to attack.

So, attack is the very nature and essence of the science game. But it is supposed to be an attack on my SCIENTIFIC IDEAS. Not an attack on me, not an attack on my qualifications, not an attack on my occasionally rough cowboy nature, not an attack on my honesty, not an attack on what I have chosen to study. Truly, it’s not about me.

Now, having said that this is not about me, enough people have questioned my fitness to comment on climate science that I would like to give an answer as to why I am qualified to do so. However, as with many things in my life, it’s kinda complicated, and involves a number of misunderstandings and coincidences. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, it’s a sea-dog’s tale of military madness.

The main strength that I bring to the analysis of the climate, curiously, is that I am a generalist. In a field like climate science, which is far broader than it is deep and encompasses a host of scientific disciplines, this is a huge advantage.

How does one get to be a generalist? In my case, it was a combination of being a freak of nature, of growing up on a very remote and isolated cattle ranch surrounded by virgin forest, and of my curious interaction with the US Army.

I went to a two-room country grade school. There were 21 kids in eight grades, and seven of them were me, my three brothers, and my three cousins. For the last four years of grade school, I was the only kid in my grade. I loved math and wordplay and puzzles of any kind, I sopped up knowledge and read everything I could lay hands on. In grade school, my Dad hauled me and my older brother off to Stanford University, where a guy who actually wore a white scientist coat gave us some version of the Sanford-Binet IQ test. They said my IQ was over 180, his was over 160. They didn’t believe it the first time, so they tested us again with different questions and got the same result. Freaks of nature.

My brother focused on electronics, was in charge of one of the two Hewlett-Packard Research Labs, invented the first civilian version of the GPS, and was a Discover Magazine Scientist Of The Year.

Me, I became a generalist.

The grade school teacher said I could skip two grades. My mom said no, so the school let me go at my own speed. I finished eighth-grade spelling in sixth grade. In seventh grade, I studied Spanish on my own. In eighth grade, the entire school district introduced Spanish education via TV. All the teachers in the county went to Spanish class one night a week so they could teach the kids and support the TV lessons with in-class training. My teacher couldn’t make it to the weekly teacher’s training, so they sent me instead. As a result, when I was in eighth grade, I was already in my second year of studying and first year of teaching Spanish … I also completed a year of high school algebra while in grade school, which let me take college calculus in high school.

My mother was a single mom who raised four sons and ran a 280 acre cattle ranch. She was both a wise and a well-educated woman with a binge drinking problem, working for months without a drop and then going on a one-week bender. We never had much money. After some years of seeing other kids who always had better clothes and newer toys, one day I screwed up my courage and asked my mom if we were poor. “No,” she said angrily, “we’re not poor, and we’ll never be poor. Poor is a state of mind.” She sighed and relaxed, rubbed her work-hardened hands, looked wistfully at the summer sky, and added “I admit we’ve been broke for a while now, but we’re not poor …”

Growing up broke on a remote cattle ranch surrounded by wild forest means that if something has to get fixed, you have to fix it. If something has to get made, you have to make it. If you have to learn something to do that, you learn it. Growing up like that is a huge advantage to a future generalist. I came away with Leonardo da Vinci and Jim Bridger as my heroes, with the ability to do most practical things with my hands, and with the blind, wildly incorrect, but fervently-held belief that whatever needed to be done, somehow, someway, I could do it even if I had nothing but baling wire and a balky Crescent wrench.

In high school, I was the kid who carried a circular slide rule in his pocket and knew how to use all of the scales on both sides. Not a nerd, I was class president, but eccentric, obsessed with math and music and science. I ascribe my nose for bad numbers to the use of the slide rule. A slide rule doesn’t have a decimal point. So if you are say multiplying 3.14 times 118, you have to mentally estimate the size of the answer to decide where the decimal point goes. To this day, this sense of the right size for a number still serves me well. I often see a numerical value describing some natural phenomenon and correctly say “No way, that answer’s out of scale, something’s wrong”, even though I’m not familiar with the subject.

I started working as soon as I was old enough to legally work, the summer after my freshman year in high school.  That summer was spent bucking hay, six ten-hour days a week, 30 cents an hour. I was fourteen. I was a Boy Scout. I got my Merit Badge for Weather, I found it fascinating. The next summer I worked as a bicycle messenger in San Francisco. The summer after that (1963) I went to a National Science Foundation special summer school for mathematicians in Oregon. We learned how to program computers. I was in heaven. I had read about computers, and I had heard about them, but to see one taking up an entire room, with its relays clicking and vacuum tubes humming, was my science fiction dream come true. And they let us write programs and run them! I was hooked, hooked bad, but of course, there were no desktop computers or work in computing for me then. In my last year of high school, I worked a 20-hour week, running the photo lathe and the Fairchild machine at the local newspaper past midnight into the small hours of the morning.

By this time, we had moved into town. In my senior year of high school, my mom ran away from home. I woke up one morning to find a thousand bucks and a note saying she wasn’t coming back, and could I take care of my two younger brothers. I ran the house, made sure they had food and did their studies, and with the invaluable help of my cousin, bless her, kept the home together for the rest of the school year. At the end of the school year, I graduated as the class valedictorian, my brothers went to live with my dad, and when the money ran out I took a job as a cowboy on a cattle ranch up by the Oregon Border.

In the fall of 1964, I started college at the University of California at Berkeley, but I hated it. I lasted one year, and then I went to Alaska to seek my fortune. Instead, mostly I starved. I worked as a short-order cook. I worked in a floating crab cannery. I worked emptying boats of rotten stinking crabs. I worked as a longshoreman horsing 300-pound bales of pulp around a ship’s hold. And mostly I made my living singing folk songs and playing my guitar in saloons and coffeehouses. When it got cold I fled down the Alcan highway to Greenwich Village, New York in November, still singing. There, through the usual coincidences and misunderstandings, I lost everything I owned but my guitar and the clothes I had on. I hooked a ride to Coconut Grove in Florida because it was warm and I was freezing. I played music.

Then the Army sent me a draft notice. 1966, something about a little conflict in Southeast Asia, they wanted cannon fodder. But if I enlisted, I could choose my specialty. I enlisted and chose, ironically, weather observer. But I barely made it through Basic Training. Halfway through, I’d had enough. I didn’t go postal, I just quit taking orders. I calmly told the Sergeant that I couldn’t blindly take orders from someone I didn’t know, because they might order me to do something I didn’t believe in … his eyes bugged out and he took me to the Captain. I told him the same story. The Captain scratched his head, stuck me in front of a typewriter, and gave me a stack of papers to deal with. I graduated with my company, but I never marched or trained with them again. They’d roll out at five-thirty AM for reveille. I got up at seven, walked over to the Company HQ, did company paperwork all day, filled out the forms the Captain hated to do, then went to the mess hall and had dinner with the guys. I desperately wanted the Army to let me out. Instead, they just went around me. Go figure.

After Basic, they sent me to Weather Observer’s school in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, near New York City. I learned how the Army categorizes clouds and what an “octa” is, how to use a wet bulb thermometer, weather theory, what a cold front looks like on a weather map and what it means, the usual stuff, and mostly, how to fill out US Army weather reporting forms. And I was going slowly nuts. They wouldn’t let us off base at all. So I stole a Class A pass from the Company safe.

The safe was in the Sergeant’s office. I timed his morning breaks for a couple of weeks. Never shorter than 8 minutes, and he left the safe open rather than relock it/unlock it. Easy.

With my stolen pass, every weekend I snuck out with my guitar and went into Greenwich Village. I played music in the clubs and hung out with the beatniks and the people I knew from the year before and slept on the streets or in Central Park. For a couple Sundays, I was playing in a club on one side of the street, and the Loving Spoonful was playing on the other side. But at eight on Monday morning, they were sleeping in, and I had to be back in my fatigues waiting for the other soldiers to catch up to the instructor’s slowly explained ideas about the weather. That split lifestyle went on for three months or so, half Beatnik, half GI. I hated the Army. I constantly risked arrest for being AWOL or for my stolen pass. I developed an uncontrollable tic in my eye. That eye twitched like a demon, I couldn’t stop it. I was losing the plot—my dreams were of endless wandering in strange landscapes, I found myself lashing out in random anger at strangers, or brooding in my room for hours. After a while the plot was lost entirely.

Finally, one weekend I had gone up to Boston, and through the usual misunderstandings and coincidences I couldn’t make it back to the base in New Jersey on time. That meant I was headed for real trouble when I returned because I was AWOL, my Class A Pass was stolen. I was mondo depressed. I decided I had to get out. I ate a double fistful of sleeping pills and told someone to call the ambulance when I passed out. I didn’t care if I lived or died.

I passed out.

I woke up with the docs pumping the bad drugs out of my stomach in some emergency room and the cops questioning me about what happened. Then to counteract the bad drugs, they shot me full of good drugs.

I passed out.

I woke up firmly lashed to a bed. They told me I was in the Terminal Heart and Cancer Patient Ward of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. They gave me more of what they said were good drugs.


I passed out.

I stayed lashed hand and foot to the bed for several days. Couldn’t feed myself. They fed me through a tube in my arm. I watched people die around me every day. They wouldn’t move the corpses during the day to avoid upsetting the others. So I’d wake up at two am, sleeping on my back because I can’t turn over, each arm is tied to the bedrail, and watch them carry out yet another body.

One day, a man with kind eyes walked through the ward. He told the orderly to untie me and bring me to his office. He looked at me and said “Son, you don’t belong in the military.”

I could have cried. I could have told him I knew that. I didn’t belong there in any sense. But I stayed silent. He said “This is a Navy hospital, I don’t even know why you’re here. The Army wants me to send you right back to your unit. I’m not comfortable with that. I’m putting you in the Bethesda Navy Mental Hospital.” I can’t remember if I offered to kiss his feet. After what I’d been through I wasn’t tracking all that well.

In 1966, the US Navy’s idea of what constituted a nuthouse might misleadingly be described as nautical and quaint. It was a Quonset hut divided in half crossways from floor to ceiling by a chain link fence. Half was for violent contestants, half for non-violent. Plus in the violent half was the rubber room, where they’d put you so you could bounce off the walls as much as you wanted. They stuck all of us new contestants into the violent half, packed us full of Thorazine pills (a very heavy tranquilizer that they said was good drugs). They watched us nod out.

Most of us were too sleepy to be attentive, much less violent, so we were let out into the other half of the nuthouse in a few days. There was no therapy. There was no radio, no books, just announcements from some Nurse Rached wannabe over the intercom. They gave us pajamas and a robe. There was nothing to do but watch crazy folks do their thing. And drool. Thorazine is great for drooling, I became an expert. I had been unfettered all my life, on the road, singing my songs, free as a bird. Now I was locked up in a distinctly un-gilded cage. My brain was regularly pumped full of happy juice. I was unhappy and depressed. I drooled and stared at the wall. A day on Thorazine with nothing to do lasts about a week.

After a month there moving in slow motion on good drugs, the Navy and the Army decided to ship me to Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. Nurse Rached read the orders and the names out over the intercom and had the orderlies bring out a bunch of stretchers. Instead of pills, they strapped us each to a stretcher and shot us each up with a mega-dose of Thorazine. Can’t have too much good drugs, I guess. Things got fuzzy. They stacked us like cordwood in a DC3, sliding the stretchers into special racks on the walls. I wanted to remember how close I was to the man on the stretcher above me. I found I could slide my hand on my chest in between us, but I couldn’t make a fist … and then the cotton wool closed in on my brain again. The trip took three days, with a different stop every night. They’d unstrap us, and we’d all stagger out like extras in a zombie movie.

That first night after they unstrapped me, I staggered into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. I was bursting from the day on the plane. When I finished, I realized that although I’d remembered to drop my pajama bottoms, I hadn’t flipped up the back of my hospital robe. I’d sat on the flap instead and filled it with human waste. I looked down, shrugged, took my arms out of my robe, and I walked out and left it right there. I was loopy, half-crazed and half-dazed, tranked to the max and locked up 24/7 with men as far off the rails as I was, what did I care? I just went to bed and said nothing to anyone—being crazy means never having to say you’re sorry.

The next day they gave me another robe. Then they shot us up again, and again we flew all day. I remembered this time about the toilet and the robe. Finally, on the third day, we staggered into a base somewhere near Sacramento. They propped us all up in a bus, where we all flopped around like gumbies on the way to the Letterman nuthouse.

The Letterman Army nuthouse on the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco was in a building previously used as a holding prison for Federal criminals headed to Alcatraz. They took us into this prison and shot us up with a bunch of other good drugs. They propped us up against the wall to wait for dinner … and from there things started getting weird.

First I started feeling stiff. Then my neck started pulling my head back. I couldn’t lower my chin. My shoulder started to arch back. Then my legs gave out and I fell on the floor. My back arched further and further back in an insane contortion. I was sure my back was going to snap, my muscles were seizing and bowing me backward. I was screaming and begging for help. Orderlies came and shot me full of yet more good drugs. I woke up groggy and tied to a bed in the violent ward … this was getting to be a theme.

They explained slowly that I had spazzed out because they had given me bad drugs, but it was all OK because now they were giving me good drugs. Welcome to the Letterman Army nuthouse, where if you weren’t before, you will be.

I spent almost six months there, while the prelude to the “Summer of Love” was going on outside the prison doors. They let us out little by little. At first, we could walk around the base for an hour with a visitor. After a while, they gave us day passes. I and my crazy friend Mel from the nuthouse would go to the Haight Ashbury. His girlfriend had a house there. His girlfriend also had a girlfriend, who became my girlfriend. After a while, the Army gave us weekend passes out of prison. So every weekend, we’d take off our Army robe and pajamas that we wore all week, nutters don’t wear regular clothes. We’d put on freak clothes, paisley shirts and bell-bottom pants, we were unbearably cool. Except for our Army haircuts. We’d go with the ladies to the Haight, play music, get weird. We went to the First Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park and heard Timothy Leary rant, Allen Ginsberg emote, and the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane rock it to the max.

But every week we had to be back on the crazy ward by eight o’clock Monday morning. So we’d take LSD every Sunday night like clockwork, then turn ourselves back into the nuthouse with our eyes spinning like pinwheels on Monday morning, put on our robes and pajamas and watch the colors crawl up the wall and people’s faces change and melt … but it was worth it because it was more than a man could do to voluntarily return to that hole of lost humanity in a sane and sober state. You had to be crazy to turn yourself back in to the Letterman nuthouse.

That split life went on for months. More schizophrenia on the half-shell. The Army wasn’t much help. At the time they were mostly doing a lot of shock therapy. But they never did any follow-up. Mel and I started doing what we could to help the people after shock therapy. I remember a guy who used to say “Well, they’re going to plug me into the wall today.”

Then in the afternoon the men in white would take him out of the locked ward where we all lived, and bring him back with his memories scrubbed whiter than white, dump him on his bunk to stare at the wall, and walk away. Mel and I and some of the other walking wounded would pull out his wallet and show him the pictures. We’d tell him his name, and say he’d been in an accident. We didn’t say a war. We’d tell him that the young woman in the picture was his wife and the boy was his son.

After a while we’d tell him that he lived in Texas, and we all were in California. Eventually, we’d get round to the fact that he had been a soldier in a faraway war. That always seemed to surprise him. Even without his memories, he didn’t think of himself as a soldier, and I understood that perfectly.

After more time we’d tell him that he’d been in a terrible situation in a distant country called Vietnam. We’d slowly work up to the fact that he was in a hospital. Then we’d let slip that it was not just any hospital, it was a nuthouse, because we’d learned by experience that he couldn’t cope with that information when he was straight out of the juice box. And so bit by bit he’d start remembering stuff, and for a while the balance was OK … but then after a week or so, he’d start remembering too much stuff. He started remembering seeing and doing and enduring things no man should ever have to even witness, much less bear the shame and guilt of having seen and done and endured, things beyond belief. And from there on he’d start to shut down a bit at a time, until one day they’d take him off and plug him in again.

And they’d bring back a memory-free rag doll, and we’d start the process over again. Don’t get me wrong. The shock therapy helped him. We knew him from the day he came in from Vietnam. Before the first shock therapy, he was catatonic and never spoke one word. So I’m not opposed to the use of electroconvulsive therapy, it can work when nothing else does … but dang, the Army could’ve done better than leave his recovery to me and Mel …

Finally, after an eternity, four months in the nuthouse, they said I could go, and Mel could go too. We were going to escape without getting plugged into the wall, get discharged! The doctor signed our discharge papers. The Lieutenant and the Captain signed them. Everyone signed them right up to the Commanding General of the Presidio.

He said Mel would be discharged, but not me. I was to be sent to Ford Ord to be trained as a company clerk.

Go figure. I saluted the guy who gave me the orders, walked out the door, and went AWOL. I spent a couple of weeks snorting speed, in this case, methedrine, and spending hours talking really, really fast to people about whatIshoulddo, shouldIgotoCanada, ormaybeturnmyselfin, noIshouldjuststayAWOLandhopeforthebest, I made up my mind dozens of times and unmade it again just as fast as my tongue could move.

Finally one day, after hours of listening to a record of Bob Dylan singing Memphis Blues Again, “Here I sit so patiently / Trying to find out what price / I have to pay to get out of / Going through all these things twice”, I took a massive dose of LSD and turned myself back in to Letterman Hospital to go through all these things twice. At the time I was dressed in Letterman hospital pajama bottoms and a tie-dyed shirt. The doctors just shook their heads and shot me full of happy juice, once again it appeared I was off bad drugs and on good drugs. Then the good drugs took over and I slept.

When I woke up, I was lashed down on a bunk in the locked ward. No weekend passes for the bad AWOL boy this time. In a couple of weeks they decided I needed work therapy.

So I was put to work in a small room with three black guys wearing pajamas and robes like me but all styled out with colorful do-rags around their heads. All day long they listened to the blackest of Oakland radio stations, “KDIA Lucky Thirteen”. They were great, they welcomed me as one of their own, as only fellow lunatics can. We ironed iron-on patches onto teeny holes in operating room sheets all day long, all of us buzzed on Thorazine, all of us gently rocking and singing along with James Brown and the Shirelles and Etta James and Motown and all things black … great music education for your average white boy. Plus I got to enjoy just hanging with the brothers and listening to and joining in with their endless jive and good spirits, bizarrely, a wonderful time.

Plus I learned how to iron patches on operating room sheets at a rate of knots, what’s not to like?

Finally, nine months after taking a double handful of sleeping pills in Boston and not really caring if I lived or died, having slipped between the Scylla of being plugged into the wall and the Charybdis of being sent back to the Army, and in a state both less crazy and more crazy than when I went entered the nuthouse, they let me go. I had outlasted them. I was given an Honorable Discharge as being “Unfit for Military Service” … like I say, I could have saved them a lot of work, I knew that from the start.

So I was free, finally free, out of prison free, no walls free, living in San Francisco in 1967 free. No more unbreakable steel bars dividing the sky into a demented solitaire tic-tac-toe game. No more grilles and locks on the door. No ironing tiny patches on sheets for eight hours a day, only to return to a locked ward full of fellow sufferers after work. No more waking up once again lashed to the damn bed. I moved in with my girlfriend. She was dancing in a topless bar on Broadway. I was twenty years old, I couldn’t even go into the bar to watch her dance … but I was free, and I swore a very big swear to unknown deities that I would remain that way.

And finally, to return to the theme, somewhere in the first months after I got out from behind bars, I made some rules of thumb for myself that eventually turned me into a generalist. One was that my motto would be “Retire Early … And Often”. Since then I’ve never been unemployed. Instead, I’ve worked a while and then retired until the money ran out. Being retired is very different from being unemployed. It’s worry-free.

Another rule of thumb I took up was that given a choice between something I had done and something I had not done, I would always do the thing undone.

Another was that if I was offered security or adventure, I’d choose adventure. And curiously, that has led to perfect security.

Finally, I swore that I wouldn’t take any more jobs unless they had a fixed ending date. I was done with serving indeterminate sentences. The end of the season, the completion of the house, the end of the harvest, I swore not to be bound by unending work as I had been bound in the nuthouse, with no known end date in sight. Some prisoners in WWII German concentration camps said that worse than the cold, worse than the hunger and the beatings, the worst thing was the uncertainty of whether they’d ever get out. I can see why. I had faced that uncertainty in a cold concrete building with bars on the windows for three-quarters of a year, seeing men rotting away in a Thorazine daze in the Letterman nuthouse, sometimes they’d been there for years, watching some get shipped off to a more permanent lifelong nuthouse, not knowing if I would get out or if I’d get plugged into the wall.

Yes, I’d take a job, but this time I’d know when my sentence would be up, and I’d be waiting for that day so I could retire again.

I have mostly followed those guidelines for the rest of my life. Since then I have worked at dozens of different jobs and trades around the world. I make as much money as I can as fast as I can until the bell rings, then I retire. I stay retired until I get called out of retirement by a great job offer. Or by an empty stomach. I have worked on all the continents but Antarctica. I lived on tropical South Pacific islands for seventeen years. I have made money by making and selling jewelry, as a commercial fisherman from LA to Alaska, as a psychotherapist, a refrigeration technician, a well driller, an auto mechanic, a computer programmer, a graphic artist, a construction manager on multi-million dollar projects, a sailboat deliveryman, a maker of stained-glass art, a project and program designer for USAID and the Peace Corps, a shipyard manager on a hundred acre remote island, an international renewable-energy trainer, a maker of fine custom cabinets, a multi-country health program manager, the Chief Financial Officer of a company with $40 million in annual sales, the Service Manager for an Apple Macintosh dealer, a high-end home builder, a sport salmon fishing guide on the Kenai River in Alaska, and a bunch more. I’m a surfer, a sailor, and a diver, with Open Water II and Rescue Diver tickets and an inshore Coast Guard Skipper’s License. I have my Ham Radio license, Hotel 44 Whiskey Echo. For those interested, my Curriculum Vitae is here.

All of this has given me all of the tools needed to work in climate science. I understand tropical weather intimately because I’ve spent years observing it. I know the vertical temperature structure of the ocean’s nocturnal overturning because I’ve experienced it scuba diving at night down under the surface. I understand climate as a heat engine because I’ve dealt with heat engines and refrigerators and their mathematical analysis and concepts for years. I’ve watched underwater damage to coral reefs from bleaching as it happened, and I’ve watched them recover. I understand the computer models because I never stopped programming after 1963. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours writing all kinds of programs, including models of physical and business systems. I speak a half-dozen computer languages fluently and can read and write slowly in another half-dozen. I have also seen what the lack of inexpensive energy does to the desperately poor in Africa, I’ve shared their tables and listened to their stories. I know the vagaries of Arctic weather, not from books, but because I fished commercially in the Bering Sea and froze my guitar in Anchorage. I am not an expert in chemistry, or physics, or atmospheric dynamics, or oceanography, or computer models, or biology, or mathematics, or arctic ecosystems, I am self-taught in all of them. But I have a good solid practical working knowledge of every one of them, I have a deep understanding of various aspects of a number of them, and I have the ability to use the lessons from one field in another.

I became interested in climate science in the 1990s. My nose for numbers said that Hansen’s claims were way out of line. Here was my first and admittedly simple climate calculation. I figured half a kilowatt per square metre average global downwelling radiation (long-wave plus short-wave). People said doubling CO2 might be 4 watts per square metre. That’s less than 1%, and in a huge, ponderous, chaotic, constantly changing climate, my bad number detector said no way that a 1% variation in forcing would knock the Earth’s climate off the rails. I reckoned if it were that delicately balanced, it would have done the Humpty Dumpty long ago.

So I started reading the various climate science studies, but idly, as they came by, just to keep in touch with the field. The real change came in 1995, when we (me + wife + four year old daughter) moved off our houseboat in Fiji and back to the US, where I could connect to the internet … and opening the internet to a mathematically minded fact junkie like me was a heady drug. Suddenly, I could actually read the papers and go get the data and see what was going on. I wasn’t chained to other peoples’ opinions of the science, I could run the numbers myself.

Of course, all of this required an immense amount of study. But I’m real good at doing my homework. I once took a job to assemble, install, charge, and test a blast freezer on a sailboat in Fiji. I was hired along with my buddy who was a welder, he did the tricky soldering work, and taught me to do it. At the time, I couldn’t have told you how a refrigerator worked, but I knew the job wouldn’t start for two months. So I bought a college refrigeration textbook and ate, breathed, and slept with that sucker. At the end of one month I could recite it backwards. The second month I bought a refrigeration technician’s textbook, bought some gauges and tanks of Freon and learned the practical end of the game.

At the end of two months, I figured I could build a refrigerator from scratch … which was fortunate, since what was supposed to be a full blast freezer kit with all the parts turned out to be a half kit, and Fiji is short on refrigeration parts. In the event, we got it built like we built things on the ranch, simply because I had to, so I figured out how to. The blast freezer worked perfectly, the wind came off it at minus 50 degrees F, about minus 46°C. It turned out to be an alchemical freezer, because when it was completed it magically transmuted a half-dozen one-litre bottles of vodka chilled to -40° (C or F, your choice) into a two-day Fijian freezer boat party that led to a couple of divorces, one marriage, headaches all around, and a wallet or two that went swimming. I was so drunk I went to sleep on a nice soft pile of rope, and woke up in pain to realize I was sleeping on the anchor chain … but I digress.

That is the kind of intensity I brought to my investigation of climate science in the nineties as once again I began yet another field of study. I don’t know how many this makes for me, I’ve done it for most new jobs, but this has been an obsession. I have spent literally thousands of hours learning about how the GCMs work and don’t work, about how the statistics of non-normal datasets differ from those of normal datasets, why polar albedo is less important than tropical albedo, how many populations of polar bears there are and what their populations are really doing (mostly increasing), how to program in R, the list never ends. The beauty of climate science is that it is a new science, there is still so much to learn, the opportunity to find out new things beckons because so much is unknown, I never get bored, and so I continue to study.

That’s why I think I am qualified to comment on climate science. I am one of a dying breed with a long and proud history and tradition, a self-educated amateur scientist. As the root of the word “amateur” suggests, an amateur scientist is someone who investigates things scientifically for love (Latin amare) rather than for money … which is fortunate, considering my profits on the venture to date have been approximately zero.

I am also one of the few amateur scientists who has published anything peer-reviewed in Nature Magazine in many years. Yes, it is a humble “Brief Communications Arising”. But it was assuredly peer-reviewed and strictly reviewed.

I also have published three pieces in Energy & Environment, the journal AGW supporters love to hate and slander because it dares to publish peer-reviewed non-AGW supporting science, a disgraceful flaunting of wanton public heresy. Two of those three pieces were peer-reviewed, and one was an opinion piece. And yes, E&E has published some peer-reviewed stuff that has turned out to be junk … quite unlike say Science or Nature Magazine …

However, at the end of the day all of that is nothing but stories to tell around a campfire. None of it means anything about whether a particular claim of mine is true or false. I bring immense practical experience and thousands of hours of study and a very quick mind to the problem, and despite that I can be not just wrong, but stupidly wrong, embarrassingly wrong, make me say very bad words wrong. Because my hours of study mean nothing. My experience means nothing. It truly is not about me, the only thing that counts is whether my ideas can stand the test of time or not.

Anyhow, that’s my story of how I became a generalist, or at least a small and not real pretty part of it. It got more interesting after that. I tell it to encourage everyone to please cut me (and everyone who dares to post their ideas for public attack) some slack regarding the personal attacks. As my story shows, some of us have studied extensively and thought long and hard about the subjects in question even if we may not have credentials and diplomas and official positions. As my story also shows, you may not have a clue what a man knows and what he has done in his life and what he can do and what drives him to do it. Leave all of that speculation at home.

So those are my requests. Talk about the science, quote my words if you disagree with them, sign your work, and keep fighting the good scientific fight.

My regards to everyone, and to misquote Willy Nelson, “Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be generalists” …


[UPDATE] I’d like to thank Claude for raising an issue that I actually thought would have come up long before.

Claude Harvey says:

March 1, 2011 at 12:03 am


Now that we’ve been treated to a litany of idolatrous responses to your personal story, let us hope that your clear analysis and “ideas” are, indeed, not confused with “who you are”. Your romanticized account of your stint in the military’s “Med-2″ program is the classic account of a fellow who “couldn’t (or, according to your account, wouldn’t) do the time for which he’d contracted”.

I too joined the military at a tender age and I too was appalled at having to “tuck it in” and take orders from lesser (in my opinion) mortals than myself. The difference between us is that I did what I had agreed to do and you did not. Twist and turn it any way you like, that is not a very admirable bottom line and it reflects an “elitist” attitude (you were ever so too smart for such mundane endeavors) that I find very unattractive.

I continue to admire your work, but I do not admire certain aspects of your history.

Claude, thanks for your comments. Here’s the problem. Let’s try looking at it from the other side.

What we didn’t understand at the time, and what many don’t understand now, is that to the Vietnamese it was always a war of independence. Fighting first against the invading Chinese, and then the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, the Vietnamese fought these foreign invaders all in succession. And when like fools and against the advice of De Gaulle the Americans invaded, we weren’t anyone special. We were just the latest contestant.

Here is a stunning fact. In 1963, when from the Vietnamese perspective America joined the endless parade of invading countries, Ho Chi Minh was already 73 years old. He had been fighting to throw first one invader, then another, then another out of his country for over fifty years before the first American soldier came to his country, and he gladly went forward with his unending war of independence.

Fifty years! Fifty years he’d been fighting the endless wars against foreign invaders!

And of course, he used his fifty years of war experience against the Americans. We totally misunderstood. We thought we were fighting Communism. We thought there was a civil war, north against south. It was nothing of the sort. By the time we stuck our hands in the buzz-saw, it was a fifty-year war of Vietnamese independence against country after country after country.

Ho Chi Minh knew that he was the good guy, fighting a lifelong fight against anyone trying to invade his country. We had no idea what we were up against. Most folks, both then and now, didn’t dream that we were the bad guys, the invaders.

And to return to my own story, I see what I did as escaping, in any way I could, from a lethally misdirected war. I see what you did as knuckling under to the tyrants who wanted to use you for cannon fodder in that unjust war.

Consider it in your own words:

“Twist and turn it any way you like”, knuckling under to thugs and going thousands of miles to kill people who just wanted you out of their country, merely so Claude’s precious ‘word’ can be true, “is not a very admirable bottom line”.

You see the problem? It’s far from a simple question. Honoring your word is important to you, just as it is to me. We agree. You think that you should honor the word you gave when you joined the military, that you keeping your word on that was more important than the life of some yellow-skinned guy halfway around the world fighting to drive you out of his homeland. Me, not so much … we disagree.

Now, obviously, this is something on which reasonable men can and do disagree. It is not a simple question, there’s no right answer. I wrestled with it myself, as did you.

But for you to come in and try to bust me because I didn’t make the choice you made, and then to claim that you have the moral high ground here?

Sorry … in that war, there was no moral high ground. There was no honorable path, no middle road. A friend of mine was a Captain in the Army who was going to be a lifer. He was stationed in Korea. He took leave to go to see what was happening in Vietnam because he was slated to be sent there. Having seen it, he resigned his commission, an option I did not have, so he would not have to participate in what he saw (and still sees) as the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong people for the wrong reasons … you gonna tell us that he should have kept his word and not resigned and happily gone to “kill gooks” because LBJ said so? Because I’d advise against you telling him that, since he actually is a pretty noble and ethical warrior, and he won’t be impressed …

I have friends that made the decision you made. But they don’t put on your airs. They’re not like you, insulting people by claiming that it was some moral crusade and that they made the right decision. They don’t blame me for the path I took, nor do I blame them (or you) for taking the path you took. They know what I know. Nobody came out of the Vietnam War unwounded, there were no right decisions. Nobody made the “moral choice” about Vietnam, Claude. Not you, not JFK, and certainly not me … the most moral act I’ve seen in the context of Vietnam was my friend resigning his commission.

My best wishes for you and your life,


5 1 vote
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
February 28, 2011 5:09 am

Just an awesome description of your life and an instructive backdrop of your perspectives. Thank you for taking the time to share this….

February 28, 2011 5:12 am

In the UK, amateur scientists have always been well regarded. Patrick Moore (the astronomer) for one. Well done Willis for keeping up the tradition.

Theo Goodwin
February 28, 2011 5:12 am

It is truly wonderful to have all this information about you. I value you even more highly than I did.
However, you will never satisfy those who criticize you personally. They criticize you because they cannot criticize your work. Ignore them.
The strength of your will is truly astounding. Someday you will be compared to Abraham Lincoln. Not necessarily for the greatness of your accomplishments but for your ability to keep going on internal motivation alone and in the face of great hardship. Of course, your contributions to science are great.
You are providing great leadership. Keep up the good work.
Best Regards,

February 28, 2011 5:24 am

Hell yeah!

February 28, 2011 5:25 am

Willis. There’s too much of this “You can’t do this because….” In many walks of life because you haven’t got the right piece of paper from the ‘right’ institution.
Sounds like you came up the hard way and you’re not one of these arrogant academicians who know little of the outside world. Some of the stuff you write goes over the top of this poor laymans head, but much of it makes perfect sense. Sir, you are worthy of any accolades that come your way. Ignore the brickbats, your detractors and their hangers on are just ticked off that you’ve rumbled the gaps in their work. Keep it up.

Dave L
February 28, 2011 5:33 am

Very interesting Willis. You are a remarkable individual. Thank you for sharing.

professor bob ryan
February 28, 2011 5:37 am

Willis: I totally agree with your comments on anonymity. I can understand why some practicing scientists might wish to maintain it for the sake of their own careers. However, for many it is a shield they hide behind as they launch their bile into the blogosphere. My point in commenting however is that science, like art or literature is an intellectual activity. Christopher Booker, Anthony Watts, Stephen McIntyre and indeed your good self are intellectuals. Intellectuals are not recognized by the letters after (or indeed) before their name, nor indeed by the number of academic publications or books written. Intellectuals are like good footballers – they learn to play the ball not the man.

February 28, 2011 5:45 am

An interesting life and a sound recommendation.

February 28, 2011 5:47 am

Its a shame you didn’t crack a book on Thermodynamics. But nobody’s perfect…

February 28, 2011 5:47 am

Well… You can now add that you also write for an award winning science blog…
All the best

David C
February 28, 2011 5:48 am

Wow. Thanks for sharing this Willis.

February 28, 2011 5:49 am

‘As my story also shows, you may not have a clue what a man knows and what he has done in his life and what he can do and what drives him to do it. Leave all of that speculation at home.
So those are my requests. Talk about the science, quote my words if you disagree with them, sign your work, and keep fighting the good scientific fight.’
Hey babe,
That is some story and why you ARE to many of US, A hero. As others are.
Hope you continue to share us with you and your good family and hope to hear more. We’ll be poorer otherwise babe.
And hey Willis, will always take you to task if I think your science has gone askew.
If only for your good knowledge, opinion and skills.
And always look forward to the retort.

Brian D Finch
February 28, 2011 5:53 am

As an ‘APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA’, this reads better than Newman.
Thank you Willis.
Years ago I was once told that, as a bus driver, I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about when I was discussing Newtonian physics in a Glasgow bar.
I pointed out to my antagonist that being a stonemason did not necessarily constitute proof that Socrates was stupid.

Scottish Sceptic
February 28, 2011 5:55 am

My point is that none of that matters. Either my scientific claims are correct, or they are not. It’s not about me. Period. End of story.
That’s what I love about science. It is just so egalitarian. In real science the facts either speak for themselves or they don’t.

Fred from Canuckistan
February 28, 2011 5:55 am

When they won’t fight you on your science and attack you instead, it usually means your science is right and they are desperate to dislocate the messenger.
Keep on message.

Vince Causey
February 28, 2011 5:57 am

A pleasure to read, Willis. And your cv is not ‘a laugh’ – it should be an inspiration to everyone who may, for whatever reason, have lost faith in what they can achieve, or have come to doubt that they have anything left to offer to the world.

February 28, 2011 6:01 am

I agree with all your main points except this:

Have the courage to sign your full true name to your ideas. Take ownership of your claims, stand behind your opinions. Anonymity encourages bad behavior.

I comment on multiple sites, many (most) are political, some are infested with loons and subject to government monitoring (like AboveTopSecret), some are gaming sites. I learned long, long ago in the Usenet days of the Internet to conceal my identity. You never know when some lunatic stalker is going to get obsessed with something you said and follow you all over the Internet, and there have been actual cases of some of these people actually tracking down posters and stalking them in real life. Therefore I have always employed a “defense in depth” method to my identity on the Internet and I am not about to change now. I do use a real email address and can by contacted by site administrators, and I do provide my real name to site administrators upon request via return email.

Buffy Minton
February 28, 2011 6:01 am

There a book in that story. Or a film. Wonderful.
There isn’t a member of the Team (or any of their attack trolls) worthy to lick your sand covered boots.

Roger Knights
February 28, 2011 6:02 am

“I’m told that I’m out of my depth. I am constantly assured that I am not qualified to offer a scientific opinion on climate, because of my lack of academic qualifications (BA in Psychology), and because of the shortness of my scientific publications list. … To hear people tell it, I’m not fit to kiss the boots of a true scientist.”

After the dust settles on this issue, no one will dare to play the “you’re-not-a-credentialed-peer-reviewed-scientist” card for a thousand years.

February 28, 2011 6:03 am

Loved the essay. And I’m delighted that you didn’t find your way to the wall plug. Our world would be a lot poorer. I too have been able to re-invent myself, abet not in as spectacular fashion, nor in as many areas.
Simply well written as usual. Thanks for sharing.

Douglas Foss
February 28, 2011 6:04 am

In my view, generalists often tend to be the best at forensic examination of complex problems. Sometimes the specialists are limited by their more rigid construct/training, and sometimes they are bound into a pre-existing structure of people surrounding them. Your qualifications seem better suited than most to investigation of climate and forcings than most. And you are exactly right; the issue is the merit of the theory and whether we can falsify it.

Tony Armstrong
February 28, 2011 6:05 am

OMG – I feel privileged and humbled to have read your story and glad that I now know the human being behind the name. I do hope that you achieve your aim – as someone once said to me “A good idea is not proud of its author”. However, I fear that you will be vilified afresh. Those on the ‘other side’ of this debate have a very great deal of money and position at stake.
I’m also not a scientist but a generalist and I say my thanks every day for people like you and Anthony and the WUWT community for allowing me to understand more on the truth of what is happening with our climate.
Good luck to you

Bloke down the pub
February 28, 2011 6:09 am

It only goes to show…

February 28, 2011 6:10 am

Loved it. But I missed where you got the BA from. Only mention I noted was you left UC Berkley after a year.

February 28, 2011 6:13 am

Great adventure. I really enjoyed it.
Intelligence has nothing to do with ‘degrees’ or ‘credentials’. Those who try to hide behind degrees or credentials, are often the least intelligent of people, disconnected with reality.
And intelligent people always recognize other intelligent people.
What I value most is original direct observation, primary reality, by intelligent people. What I value least are those who live almost completely in a secondary reality that is just a rehash, or speculation, of something that is written in a book or article. (a tip of my hat to your Zen reference, and Buddha’s last words of advice to ‘reason truth out for yourself’)
Your writing has a big thumbs up from me.

February 28, 2011 6:14 am

Fascinating story Willis, keep up the good work of bringing good science to the masses! Hope to see you in heaven.

February 28, 2011 6:15 am

Willis, I agree whole heartedly. Either you are correct or you are not. Its up to them to prove you incorrect based on what you say, no question your credentials.
There are many people who have an interest in one science or another who study it deeply in their own time. Just because they don’t choose it as their career doesn’t mean their knowledge if any less worthy.
Keep up the good work, I for one value it highly.

Ken Hall
February 28, 2011 6:16 am

Besides which, since when was Al Gore a scientist? The warmists still idolise him, no matter how many times he has been proven flat-out-wrong!
The temperature in the centre of the earth is millions of degrees??? Not even close. Not even in Kelvin. No way! He is only millions of degrees, (give or take a couple of thousand) out on that one!
He claims the seas will rise 20 METRES! Yet buys sea-front property.
He has a personal carbon footprint 20 times the size of GW Bush’s.
Yet warmists still spout his nonsense. Since when did real science EVER mean anything to them?

February 28, 2011 6:17 am

And you concerned that Tim Lambert (UNSW) is critical of you? Take a look at his academic page.
It’s a long time between drinks since he’s published anything other than attacks against people he doesn’t like on his blog.

February 28, 2011 6:18 am

Interesting story. Also rather ironic given that it’s titled “It’s not about me.”

February 28, 2011 6:20 am

Pleased to make your aquaintance Willis. I finished nine years in the UK army at Singapore in 1966.
If you ever make it to Milford Haven in Wales, UK, I would love to buy you a round. Bring the family, I have room.
Richard David Henderson

February 28, 2011 6:22 am

When they can’t find fault with the science,try to find fault with the man.
because they know they are losing the argument.
Don’t stop what you’re doing Willis, it’s clearly got some rattled.More power to your elbow..
Another thing to think about, is if these scientists are so sure of there standing/reputation then why when sceptics find fault/fraud in the methodology why don’t they ever libel some one??
heres very recent one but its not one of the “TEAM”

February 28, 2011 6:22 am

Nice one, Willis. Re anonymity: I’m still using a pseudonym (it’s the name of a place where I used to live), but when I have some solid contribution to make to the climate debate I’ll go public. At the moment I’m just learning and asking questions, so my name’s not important and, as I mentioned on Judy Curry’s blog, I have ‘scientific’ associates, professionals and students, who just wouldn’t understand what I’m on about. ‘It’s all settled, anybody who disagrees is a denier’ is one theme. Other common themes are arguments from ignorance, and variations on the precautionary principle. When one asks a question they can get angry. You know all that. What’s the point of trying to converse with such people? As I was once told by a shared taxi driver when I lived in Libya, ‘There’s no communication here’. I know what he meant. It’s like a minefield. I know when to keep my mouth shut. But thanks, Willis, for raising the standard!

John Whitman
February 28, 2011 6:25 am

I think many would want the title of your post to be ‘It’s Not About Us’ instead of ‘It’s Not About Me’. There are many who identify with you in a lot of ways. You hang in there.
On a humorous note, another song that is also kinda relevant is Hank Williams Jr’s great ‘All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down’. : )
I am of small ‘mom & pop’ dairy farm upbringing, so having lots of experience with cows . . . that gives me somewhat of a cowboy mentality.
Well, it is about 10:30 pm here in Taipei, good night.

Peter Whale
February 28, 2011 6:26 am

Willis I am amazed at your story. I have a cousin with a degree in botany and theology. He mirrors your story without the spell inside. He by design has done a different job every six months for the whole of his life and is now seventy. If I want to know anything I ask him, I always get a straight answer.
Keep the posts coming the truth will out. I will read them with appreciation.

February 28, 2011 6:27 am

Well, Willis, that was some read. I hope that it will have an impact on Mr Lambert and his followers.
Has the said TL ever done any climate analysis himself I wonder? As a compulsive climate data analyser myself (I’d like to tell you about it some time), using software that I wrote and used to sell, I sometimes feel that many of those who comment on this sort of thing seem to have little or no personal experience of data analysis or even on data appreciation. Really liked your remarks about data “sense” – the feel for something being suspicious even without doing the sums accurately. Looking at the efforts of many journalists in the MSM writing simple stuff on science or engineering it is clear that they often have not the slightest idea of what underlies their subject matter. This turns me off really thoroughly. Let comments and opinions be taken notice of only when written by someone with at least some real understanding of their subject matter.
Anyway, BRAVO! for your effort.

February 28, 2011 6:29 am

Bloody hell, Willis. Talk about laying it all out on the line. Quite a lot of your story strikes a chord with me. I always knew you were some sort of wunderkind, but 180!! Even the Mensa test can only accurately measure to 167.
I’ve always liked your articles. You have a unique ability to explain complex concepts to the common man (you’ve obviously been reading your Feynman). That along with your politeness to posters marks you out as what I’d call an enabler of people.
Contrast that with most of the warmists that I’ve come across, who are disablers. And that is my one fear about what you have done in writing this post, that they will use it to try and slice you down. I just hope you will see it for what it is, a mix of jealousy, begrudgery, and a hatred for anybody who tries to pull themselves up by their socks and rise above the parapet. Kudos to you.

Doc Tor
February 28, 2011 6:30 am

Fascinating tale.
I have a MSc and a PhD in my line of engineering. The latter is supposed to mean that I am well versed in scientific methods and principles.
Thus I will claim that your are absolutely correct in your assertions. Keep up the good work!

February 28, 2011 6:30 am

This explains a lot to me. I have always enjoyed reading your posts but seeing this helps me understand why. I have many parallels to your story but the most important is growing up in a small town, small school with no “disposible income”. Like you, I am mostly self taught out of necessity. There was no one to do something for me and no money to pay anyone. As a result you develop a “I can do anything” attitude because you mostly had to. Even though I am reasonably comfortable now, I still fix my own cars, build my own cabinets, tile my own floors …. Out of “been there, done that” you learn to recognize when someone is trying to pull a fast one. Thus the same issue I have PNS and modern climate science, my BS indicator is off the charts.
So BRAVO to you (and thanks to Anthony for giving you the space) and keep stirring the pot. My dad always told me you know when your doing good when people start attacking you. If there is no conflict, your not doing anything.

February 28, 2011 6:33 am

As an aside, I still have my circular slide rule (Atlas), although I never really mastered it as the pocket calculator pushed the slide rule into the museum. 😉
I also skipped a grade, from 3 to grade 5. To parents considering this option for any of their children, I would recommend against such a move. (I agree with Willis’ wise mom here.) I struggled nightly in grade 5 (different school, different friends, different teachers, etc). My handwriting never recovered, as I missed grade 4 penmanship altogether. Of course, computers pushed handwriting into the museum as well. 😉

February 28, 2011 6:34 am

Thanks, Willis. Experience, grit, passion, and a nose for “truth” in a scientist. What a combination. So glad Anth0ny recognized a treasure — “It’s about the science”.

Alexander K
February 28, 2011 6:35 am

Willis, while it may not be ‘about you’, you bring unique and huge experience, expertise and your own forms of genius (anyone with an IQ over 180 belongs in that realm) to a field that has been mostly the province of the polite boys and girls who went from school to college, learned all the right things to say and do and earned unremarkable Phuds for doing production-line, cookie-cutter science. Most of them would go on to become useful citizens who pay their taxes, marry ‘suitable’ partners and raise their kids in the approved manner of respectable folk. And under all of that protective colouring some of them are as dumb as a box of hammers and have the ethics of Wile E. Coyote. But they belong to the Club and will use any vilification to fight off those rare people who can sniff out wrong numbers and who take the time and trouble to learn and understand stuff that is kept hidden as the province of the academically-validated ‘expert’ who knows how to fight and survive in the publish-or-perish jungle.
These people vilify you, Willis, because they see you as a huge threat, an intellectual Crocodile Dundee in their jungle. Go for it, mate.

Ian W
February 28, 2011 6:37 am

I think that people who resort to qualification comparison ought to remember the story of the Emperors New Clothes:
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that are invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”'s_New_Clothes
Hans Christian Andersen didn’t unintentionally choose a child as the only person to see the fault. People need to learn all the messages in the story.

Physics Major
February 28, 2011 6:37 am

I recall another amateur scientist who had a few good ideas. He was an obscure examiner in the Swiss patent office who had some ideas about relativity.
Not to say that you’re another Einstein, but just to point out that history is full scientific discoveries made by “amateurs”.

Dave Springer
February 28, 2011 6:38 am

I got your moon right here.

John Campbell
February 28, 2011 6:38 am

Well, Willis, I had thought that my life story might seem mildly interesting to a few people, but I’ve now resolved to keep utterly schtum. Your autobiography was not only very entertaining, but also damned interesting – and impressive. Many thanks – I thoroughly enjoyed the read. But enough (as you say) about you (or me); I agree 100% that it’s all about the science. And I’m still on the lookout for real hard evidence in support of the AGW hypothesis.

February 28, 2011 6:42 am

So you are in good company: Accompanied by the greatest researchers and discoverers in the history of the world: All laymen. From Milankovic to Tomas Alva Edison. Is it a coincidence or just a “raison d´etre”?: The more information, the more self indulgement, the more self conceit, the less space left for real knowledge.

February 28, 2011 6:43 am

Willis, you are a remarkable human being. It’s an honour to have known you through these boards.

Alexander K
February 28, 2011 6:51 am

Willis, sorry, forgot your point about anonymity – Coldish (above) has elucidated my position beter than I am able to. I do use my one-and-only email so webmasters know I am genuine, but that’s as much as I’m willing to reveal.

February 28, 2011 6:51 am

Willis’s comments on scientific elitism are spot on. The scientific community is an island of aristocratic snobbery, a kind of cult which possesses a mindset about 400 years less developed than that of normal society within which it lives in a somewhat parasitic manner. The 21st century is seeing more and more of the world embracing egalitarianism, individual freedoms and rights, and justice, while professional scientists by instinctive religious-like insular reaction, cling every more desperately to feudal heirarchy and their Dante-esque view of a pyramid of human souls with different levels of value.
It is deeply pathetic. Its about time what is happening on the streets of Cairo, Tripoli and Bahrain, happened in the scientific community.

February 28, 2011 6:55 am

Stonking post – thanks for sharing
The meditation associated with Zen and Eastern systems of philosophy makes for excellent training in logic. Your misadventures in mental health will have also burnished your generalist credentials

Hilton Gray
February 28, 2011 6:59 am

Wow! Willis have you ever thought about putting all this down in a book!? I got to the end and thought – bugger, I want to know more!

Roger Longstaff
February 28, 2011 6:59 am

A very moving story Willis (may I call you that?). But one thing:
You are one of the most respected posters to this, the best science blog site on the web (and now it is official!). You always provide original, deep and thoughtful posts, and you always ask for constructive criticism. I am a graduate physicist and (one time) Chartered Engineer, and I have never felt the need to criticise your work – indeed, I have had occasion to priase it (like your masterful desconstruction of that bizarre Nature paper). And I use my real name.
If you ever come to the UK I would be proud to buy you a pint! (or three).
P.S. When are you and Anthony coming to the UK for a lecture tour. We sorely need you! I will apply to the Royal Society for sponsorship on your behalf, if you want?
REPLY: I’d be happy to come, but like Willis points out, I’m broke but I’m not poor. Feel free to apply. – Anthony

February 28, 2011 7:02 am

Thank you for your candidness. Elements of your education reflect a reservation I’ve always had with formal education; it encourages narrower and narrower specialisation the longer you’re in it and positively discriminates against the intellectual and imaginative free spirits. I can see why you needed out of it. Thanks again.

February 28, 2011 7:05 am

Thanks for taking the time to post that Willis.
In a perverse way it is kind of heartening when they start getting personal, it means they can not fight the message so they are going for the messenger.

erik sloneker
February 28, 2011 7:08 am

Love you to death Willis and appreciate your work, but please go easy on us “semi-literate ditch diggers” (I own an excavation and concrete construction company). Anyone who thinks it’s easy or mindless to operate a 40,000# excavator on a 30 degree slope ripping rotton bedrock and tree stumps has never done it. Our techno-centric culture has unfortunately lost respect for the hard-working men and women who make these types of jobs look easy.

Bob Barker
February 28, 2011 7:10 am

Thanks for the insight, Willis. The ability to use the slide rule and thus needing to know where to place the decimal point is a useful skill in evaluating climate science claims and proposed solutions. This ability seems to be largely lost to the digital generations but we still live in an analog world.

February 28, 2011 7:14 am


February 28, 2011 7:15 am

“Here was my first and admittedly simple climate calculation. I figured half a kilowatt per square metre average global downwelling radiation (long- plus short-wave). People said doubling CO2 might be 4 watts per square metre. That’s less than 1%,”
Yes. That’s the giveaway. It’s a hoax.

David L
February 28, 2011 7:17 am

You are correct Willis. The Wright brothers knew nothing of flight before they taught all of humanity how to fly. It wasn’t about them. It was about understanding what had been done by others before them (much of it wrong by the way) and pursuing the science and engineering that would enable heavier-than-air flight.
I have been a scientist my entire adult life. To me, you are a true scientist. The people who personally attack you are not scientists. They are weak and scared. They want their theories to be true and know that nature isn’t on their side.

February 28, 2011 7:18 am

Well for a week there Phil Jones knew what it was like being in the army so you may have something in common. I always wondered where all the Pommy cricket fans travelling to Oz got their ‘Barmy Army’ name from. You never stop learning.
Anyway, had a bit of a rough trot myself with acute sciatica for 18 months in my younger days (pain does wonderful things to the neurons), which led to me generalising in Humanology. Dragged myself up by my bootstraps too against all the odds, fighting the prejudice of all my papered/lettered betters. I’ve had the last laugh on them all as an eminent, peer-reviewed, eggspert in the field nowadays. The odd grant would certainly help but you know how it is with all those highly qualified climatologists at the head of the queue but hope springs eternal as they say.

February 28, 2011 7:20 am

Absolutely stunning life story, as for attacks on you. If you can’t attack the science then attack the man.
Keep doing what you doing Willis you’ve clearly have some rattled.
Thats one hell of a C.V.
Tim Lambert…who?

Jeff Carlson
February 28, 2011 7:20 am

forgot about the no anon request …
auto-biography …

February 28, 2011 7:23 am

I learned a number of things about Willis I did not know. Let me add one.
When in the presence of this man, there is not a hint of stuffiness, not a wisp of intellectual superiority, nary a clue of self righteousness that I have seen from some scientists in the climate debate.
Today, I am more proud to call Willis Eschenbach a friend than I am about winning the Bloggies.
He is a scholar and a gentleman in the truest sense.

February 28, 2011 7:23 am

I’m constantly reminded of a fellow by the name of Faraday, who “had no academic credentials”. I’m also reminded of his friendship, late in life, with a “student” called James Clerk Maxell. I’m ALSO reminded that Maxell’s work inspired Heinrick Hertz (an academic) to EXPERIMENT, finding the “Hertzien Waves”. Alas, Hertz died young, but not before a mere “telegraph engineer” (translate, “wire connector”) got copies of his papers and set to work to make it useful, Guiliano Marconi.
You can trace this whole connection (note: Maxell’s paper, “On Faraday’s Lines of Force”, 1861) right to the Wireless on your desktop connecting to several machines in your house.
SO we should go back in time and “remove” Faraday, because of his lack of academic background? Your work is even MORE impressive than “those in the field”, because you come up with valid points…based on a keen mind and hard work!

February 28, 2011 7:25 am

Great story, I enjoyed it. However, regarding your rules, I think that there is something ilogical in them, something that looks discordant to me given your introduction to the topic:
3. Have the courage to sign your full true name to your ideas. Take ownership of your claims, stand behind your opinions. Anonymity encourages bad behavior. If I wasn’t so reluctant to “fix what ain’t broke” I’d be tempted to make using your real name a requirement on my threads, except for people with valid reasons (e.g. they’d lose promotion points where they work). I’d miss tallboy and some others if they didn’t come forth, but I suspect that the signal-to-noise ratio would improve greatly. Whether it would still be as interesting to read is a separate question … in any case, no requirements, just an urgent plea for people to come out of the closet.
I don’t think I will ever use my real name here, because it is not about me, it is about my claims. Yet I understand that sometimes it can be unfair from the point of view of whoever I am talking to who actually uses his/her real name. For that reason alone, when filling the form we fill for sending comments, I am using an email address which is not my main address at gmail dot com. I am using an email address that is real and functional but whose domain belongs to me, as in the real me. And it is a domain name which is not whois-protected, on purpose. Anyone can know who that domain name belongs to. Regular readers do not have access to the email addresses we introduce and cannot get that information, but Anthony and any of the moderators do. That’s as far as I feel that I should go, its like hiding in plain sight. Should “who I am” become important at any point, it can be easily learnt. If anyone else needed to know who I am because they feel that it is not enough to deal with the claims, well… they can just ask. I would want to know their motives, of course, but probably I would just give away the information. Meanwhile the true identity only distracts from dealing with the claims. And you know it, because you suffer it.

February 28, 2011 7:27 am

1. Talk about the science. Not about my qualifications. Not about what you imagine my motives might be. Not about my fancied truthiness content. Talk about the science…

I hate this phrase. I truly hate it. I hate it because it is misused by people who do not talk about science. It’s the standard political practice now, spend 20 minutes talking about how horrifically bad Mr X is, how he’s wrong, he’s bad for all of us, his ideas will be the doom of mankind, these thoughts he has will kill your daughters and enslave your sons, but but but, enough about X, lets focus on “the science.”
I hate this. It is used entirely now as a cowardly retreat into the robes of ivory tower staffers after pale minions of non-curious bloggers have thrown all the mud they can at an idea they dislike but cannot disprove. It truly just turns my brain off when I hear someone say it. I wish people could stop saying, “lets talk about the science,” so badly I want to rename science.
Keep in mind, Willis, I am not accusing you of throwing mud here or anywhere else. I’m simply expressing extreme dislike.

…I once took a job to assemble, install, charge, and test a blast freezer on a sailboat in Fiji…

That’s probably the craziest part of this story.

Simon Wood
February 28, 2011 7:27 am

What an interesting and varied life you’ve led. If you ever feel compelled to write an autobiography, I’ll be the first name down for a copy.
And yes, agree with everything you say about discussing the science, not the person. But then again, I already did.

February 28, 2011 7:27 am

My word, what a life. If you’re ever in Cambridge (UK) I’ll buy you a pint..
As for the anonymity- my moniker was chosen during the beginning of the debate when things were still quite nasty. While I’m happy to stick my own head above the ramparts, I didn’t see why my wife and child should too (not to say I expected any come-back, I’m nowhere near important enough! I’m just incredibly cautious when it comes to family).
Now however I keep it for continuity- I’ve learnt a lot in this debate, had some stupid ideas beaten out of me and I now think it’s good to keep that ‘thread’ going. It’s also for career reasons, as you pointed out (rightly so) you can harm your advancement and employment opportunities if you’re openly sceptical of AGW. As mentioned above- if you ever need to find out who I am (as I’ve said something daft) a mod will tell you my email and we can converse that way.
Great read though that Willis.

February 28, 2011 7:28 am

Thank you, Willis for the great post and personal introduction. Since I started reading WUWT in Nov 2009 (gee what happened then?) I’ve often wondered who you are and what your background is, and my Internet searches mostly resulted in links to unfriendly smears. But now I know, and I’m fascinated, and pleased.
I’ll take a well grounded generalist over a classroom egghead any day!

February 28, 2011 7:29 am

Just checking –
Willis, when you described this tale:
When I was younger, for decades I was a Zen Buddhist. There is an important saying that Zen is not the moon, it is just the finger pointing at the moon. Complaints, arguments, and discussions about the finger miss the point – the subject of importance, the subject worthy of discussion, is the moon.
none of us should read it as a veiled attempt to “moon” your critics, right?

February 28, 2011 7:30 am

There is a point at which we all have to rely on the work of others if we want to get anything done at all. For instance, although I have done many many projects that normal human beings would not be interested in doing, I draw the line at smelting my own iron and casting my own engine blocks.
Everyone draws the line somewhere. Most of the human race could not be bothered to learn the science behind CAGW. Most people will line up behind whichever ‘expert’ espouses something that fits with their own world view. The thing that amuses me is how staunchly they will defend something about which they have not a single solitary clue. They are on the wheel. Whacking them with a clue stick will not lead to their enlightenment for at least several more lifetimes.
If people do not want to deal with the science, that is fine. You can’t do everything. (Don’t bother asking me how I know.) What is not fine is that they hurl abuse at those who have worked hard to understand the issues. We can ask them to refrain (as you have done) . We can also ask them to ask themselves why they cling so strongly to opinions which they do not understand.

Nano Pope
February 28, 2011 7:34 am

You have an amazing story and a great future as a scientist. I can’t really comment much on that though, but I would like to speak (as others have) about pseudonyms.
You are perfectly correct earlier when you say that the only arguments with merit are those that focus on the idea, not the messenger. Most that use pseudonyms, such as tallbloke, use them consistently enabling the same discourse you would have with anyone. Usually it’s not hard to find the person behind the screenname but in any case the person is usually irrelevant. I know that the dialogue can become higly vitriolic in online debates, but this is the main reason for pseudonyms, to seperate the arguments from the person. This has its downside, but the alternative is worse. Allowing only real names won’t encourage civility, it will encourage silence. Anonymity and freely speaking your mind is better for vigorous debate than cautionary, reserved and stifling language in the name of keeping up appearances. I can appreciate that the downsides can be frustrating and insulting, and anonymity seems cowardly, but the upside is a freedom of discourse, a freedom to blow the whistle, a freedom to say what you think without concern for your real life welfare. Such freedoms, I feel, are worth the price of petty trolls and sockpuppets.
Thanks again for all your contributions, and I appreciate sincerely that you put your name to them.

February 28, 2011 7:35 am

Willis, thanks for sharing your life story, which is entertaining as well as instructive.
On the subject of anonymity, I would be committing professional suicide if I revealed my identity. Since I don’t expect anyone else to pay my way, that’s just how it has to be.
More broadly, not everyone is as extroverted (perhaps) as you are. My privacy is precious to me. And, as PP has pointed out, the world is full of weird people, some of whom get their jollies by tracking down others who have made their identities available through blogs or social networking sites. My name, like yours, is a bit unusual and it would take no time at all for someone to find out where I live and a lot more if they had my name. So, I am afraid it will never be posted with my comments, anywhere, anytime. But I use a real email address, and do not use comment facilities to be disruptive (I hope!)
Keep up the good work.

Simon Wood
February 28, 2011 7:36 am

REPLY: I’d be happy to come, but like Willis points out, I’m broke but I’m not poor. Feel free to apply. – Anthony
I’m from the UK also, and would relish the opportunity to see you and Willis lecture. If you set up a donation fund, I’ll gladly contribute.

February 28, 2011 7:36 am

Max Planck said, “There is nothing more practical than theory.”
You show that thorough and objective application of experience permits honest assessment of whether theory is practical.
Many thanks for persisting in doing that.

February 28, 2011 7:40 am

F[snip]ing Hell Willis!! Respect, man! 🙂
And wasn’t Isaac Newton an amateur scientist? ISTR that he spent more time in the study of alchemy.

Stuart MacDonald
February 28, 2011 7:40 am

Willis Eschenbach says: I became interested in climate science in the 1990s. My nose for numbers said that Hansen’s claims were way out of line. Here was my first and admittedly simple climate calculation. I figured half a kilowatt per square metre average global downwelling radiation (long- plus short-wave). People said doubling CO2 might be 4 watts per square metre. That’s less than 1%, and in a huge, ponderous, chaotic, constantly changing climate, my bad number detector said no way that a 1% variation in forcing would knock the Earth’s climate off the rails. I reckoned if it were that delicately balanced, it would have done the Humpty Dumpty long ago.
In other words, despite complete ignorance of the facts, you formed an opinion about climate sensitivity and spent the next 15-20 years confirming it. There is a name for that and its not science.

Gary Swift
February 28, 2011 7:41 am

If they want to get caught up in accademic credentials they should look up the guy who helped Hubble discover the red shift/distance relationship. His name is Milton L. Humason, and he was the guy that tended the mules used to get supplies up and down the mountain for the Mount Wilson Observatory. He had only a grade school education but he would talk with the astronomers on the way up and down the mountain. He asked a lot of questions and people like Hubble would teach him things and let him help with simple things around the Observatory in his spare time. He is co-credited with Hubble for the red shift discovery as well as Hubble’s law.
He never got a high school diploma.
I’ve dealt with the problem of credentials in my own life. I am a self-taught computer programmer. I started with a BASIC book and a TI99-4A when I was about 9 years old. By the time I started taking actual computer classes in order to get certifications, I don’t think they ever taught me anything I didn’t already know. The classes were merely for the pupose of getting it on paper that I really did know all that suff I said I knew. Hardly anybody belives me when I say that I was writing relational database programs for money when I was 12 (under the table because I wasn’t legally old enough to work). Not exactly what a company is looking for on a resume, unfortunately, because I can make the average college grad look dumb with my eyes closed.
Keep up the good work Willis.

February 28, 2011 7:42 am

A great post Willis! And priveledge to read.
As an amateur scientist, (I like the term ‘autodidact’ better) and a generalist, myself. And with a similar life path, your story resonates in my soul.
A fully functional human should be able to do a little of everything, and do it well, from diapering a baby, to building a house, to singing a good song; even if it’s a bit off key.
“Specialization is for insects” ~Lazarus Long, from Robert Hienlien’s ‘Time Enough For Love’.

February 28, 2011 7:43 am

I meant to just dip in to this article prior to getting back to work but was rivetted, as usual, by your amazing prose.
I still say you need to add ‘book author’ to your c.v. ! You could sell many times more copies in one day than my dry academic book has sold in 5 years, with an instant and eager readership here at WUWT who would be happy to have a compendium of your experiences and thoughts and essays on science.
Brian Finch commented that this entry, ‘As an ‘APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA’… reads better than Newman.’ I was reminded of Newman when reading your instructions to Jerome Ravetz on how to write. Your writing style captures Newman’s dictum to stick to one theme or idea and make everything in an essay refer to that one thing: clear, brief and easy to understand.
As for your history, ‘amateur’ scientists include the likes of Charles Darwin (if accreditation in a discipline relies on obtaining a university degree in that specialization). It is very encouraging that amateurs have been re-engaged by science, even if unfortunately out of a felt need to examine what is going on in an attempt to keep some scientists honest.
Generalists rock!

Claude Harvey
February 28, 2011 7:44 am

Well Jeese, Willis! Now I’m disillusioned! I thought you were just another Harvard dilettante. Careful with that “nose for numbers” though. I got that one stuffed up my own nose in engineering college by a grizzled old triple-integral-calculus professor. I’d complained that some of the “pure math” transformations he had us doing were a waste of time for an engineer because a simple math mistake anywhere along the line could put your final answer off by several orders of magnitude and you’d never have any way of knowing it. My argument was that for any “real” problem an engineer might be working on he would know ahead of time what was and was not at least a possible outcome.
The old boy promptly popped me with the following “real world” thought problem:
You have this enormous ball of twine. You decide (don’t ask why) to drive a stake in the ground at the equator, tie the bitter end of that ball of twine to the stake, and roll that ball completely around the earth while keeping the unfurled line taut until you’re back at that stake in the ground where you began. When you get back to the stake you find you have three feet of twine left over. You hate the idea of wasting that three feet, so you tie the loose end to the stake and go all the way back around the world shimming up the radius of the circle with a series of spacers to take up that extra 3 feet of circumferential slack. How thick would those spacers have to be. A nose for numbers would tell an engineer that “a wrinkle here and a wrinkle there over the entire circumference of the earth and I’ve got 3 feet of circumferential slack out of my line”, so the required radial spacers must be infinitesimally small. Do the simple math and, if you haven’t seen this one before, you will probably be amazed at the answer.

February 28, 2011 7:47 am

Thank you for sharing your journey. I’m glad that I didn’t have to live through that. Life’s been good to me, so far.
What generalists have is a sense of proportion.
A grip on magnitudes and relative importance.
I doubt that you’d ever have made a “good scientist” in the second half of the 20th century. The curiosity and diverse interests are not welcome in the institutions as they were a hundred years earlier. Your heretical tendencies would have been most un-welcome.
As a generalist myself, I acquired an Engineering degree which thankfully taught me that I knew nothing. Instead of learning what to think, I learnt how to think. Instead of learning to acquire knowledge, I learnt to gain a necessary understanding; usually motivated by having to solve a real-world problem.
Knowledge doesn’t solve problems. And nowadays, knowledge is easy to obtain but understanding remains a challenging pursuit, a hunt for that elusive creature in the woods, where knowledge may shine some light, but your increasing understanding helps you navigate to the prey eventually. Once you grasp it, all around you seems to illuminate and the pieces all fall into place.

Dave Springer
February 28, 2011 7:50 am

A smart guy like you should have figured out the easiest way out of the military is to do your job and complete your tour. I figured that out in the first couple of weeks of boot camp. I enlisted in the USMC near the end of the Vietnam war and was able to choose what I wanted to do. I got the highest GCT score on record for that recruiting office and every military occupation was open to me. I chose avionics since that was longest most technical profession the Marine Corps offered. I was 17 years old and ditched an MIT scholarship just to take the road less traveled but I wasn’t rebellious enough to want to make a living humping a rifle through a jungle. After the first few hours of arriving at Paris Island Recruit Depot I realized I’d made a mistake but I also realized the best exit strategy was to keep a low profile and do the job I’d signed up for. So I did. Eighteen months later I finished all my military schools. From basic avionics I chose Meteorological Equipment Repair for a specialty because that was the longest toughest school on the menu and with a wide range of electronics; closed circuit television, weather radar, weather satellite receivers and facsimile machines, radiosonde tracking dishes and strip chart recorders, cloud height finders, visibility detectors, UHF and VHF radios, teletype machines, digital computers and displays, and probably some more I’ve forgotten. The next three years I spend in sunny southern California near the beach at MCAS El Toro. The booze and drugs flowed liberally, the women were beautiful, everyone young and fit, we surfed and went snow skiing, ran our dirt bikes through the mountains and deserts, and Mon-Fri 9-5 a secure job with great benefits. I wouldn’t change a thing if I had it to do all over again. By the time I was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant when my four year hitch was up I had already completed several college classes at Pepperdine Business School. I then used the generous GI Bill and got paid $600/mo. (which is equivalent to about $1800/mo. now) as long I was enrolled and got a passing grade in college 12/units per semester. I enrolled in summer classes too to keep the checks coming all year long. I stayed right in southern California the whole time in the closest community college and since I didn’t need to declare a major I never did and just took all the BS general ed classes plus a bunch of extra science courses which happened to include microprocessor architecture and a few different programming languages. By the time I had exhausted community college I had 70 units, all the general education crap out of the way, and had found my niche in computer science. After enrolling in Cal State Fullerton and before I started the first semester I went looking for a job near the university. I’d been working either part or full time while going to college variously fixing TVs, industrial process controls, and broadcast video editing equipment. I’d also gotten into hobbyist computing and had done my college computer programming homework on a computer I built myself rather than the college’s computer thanks to some accomodating professors. Anyhow, when I went in for an interview at a small company making portable computers they were so impressed with me at the interview they offered me an entry level engineering position at a base salary higher than BCS graduates were getting. So I never finished school and the rest is history – 20 years later at the tender age of 43 and seven years at Dell Computer when it went from a $1B/yr company to a $40B/yr company I was able to retire and I did. The next 10 years I pretty much got back to my ancestral roots, bought some land, a tractor and chainsaw, cleared it, put in utilities, built a dock and restored a big houseboat, then built a house. A blogged and googled a lot in all kinds of subject areas from politics to religion and science. I love hard physical labor and building things but the 20 year stint in computer R&D didn’t leave me much time for anything else.

Dave Nash
February 28, 2011 7:50 am

Sorry Willis, but it IS about you and what you represent. We are judged by how we express our opinions and how we comport ourselves when others agree or disagree with our opinions. Each time you present an argument you are judged on your integrity before the content of your argument is even read or understood. I have judged you as one worth listening to (for the entertainment value of your prose, if nothing else) and one with a great deal of integrity. I tend to agree with your opinions more often than not, but even if I was solidly behind the CAGW camp I would read what you had to say solely based on how others attack you and the snide comments that are used to try to tear you down rather than disprove your arguments. When someone begins to rant on a subject – even if I agree with the gist of the rant – I tend to tune them out and move on to the more reasonable contributors to the argument. Many others live for the rants and even try to start them by being Trolls and contrarians. I judge them too and their points are seldom heard. I too have spent an inordinate amount of time studying the subject of AGW (and all name permutations thereof) and have had my questions ridiculed on other sites. The simple statement and question that “this doesn’t seem to be correct, can someone point me to the literature or explain this to me?” was derided to such a degree – and encouraged by the moderators – that I no longer even visit the sites. So, I judge what they have to say by the way that they act. If they acted more like you do I might listen to them more. Therefor Willis, it is about you as well as what you have to say. Please keep saying it as I’ve enjoyed the reading of it.

February 28, 2011 7:51 am

I always read what you have to say since I first encountered your thermostat hypothesis, which seems to me to be entirely plausible. The geological record indicates that the atmosphere must limit climatic end-points somehow, your hypothesis suggests how it happens. The idea that current and projected CO2 emissions will force the climate into disastrous warming flies in the face of repeated paleontological evidence that suggests that a warm earth is better for life than a cold or frozen earth. Also that a changing environment ultimately leads to more species. It seems many of the warm-mongers believe the earth has been static and is meant to stay that way.
I have been proud to tell people that I started school in a one-room school house, which is an anomaly now, but most people did that before the midpoint of the 20th century. It gave me a head start in history and arithmetic, and helped me on the road to a generalist education, because I listened to the teacher explaining things to the higher grade students. There were disadvantages, most of which I was unconscious of, except having to endure the cold to get to school in the winter, which I didn’t suffer stoically, unlike my big brother, who had to drive the horse and start the fire in the morning.
Thanks, Willis, and keep thinking and writing about this climate stuff, OK?

February 28, 2011 7:52 am

Each of us is here to teach and learn. It starts at conception and lasts till our death. Some, who are remembered after death, teach for a while longer. You have touched and taught many, you have felt and learned much. The amazing thing about life is that there are countless similiar stories, and while each is remarkably similiar, they are also so very different too. Now that is something to wonder about. Nice to know more Willis. Thank you.

February 28, 2011 7:53 am

Willis, Thank you for that.

February 28, 2011 7:53 am

Cut down on the caffine… it helps.

February 28, 2011 7:57 am

In Germany the concept of the “Fachidiot” is well know. It describes the chap who knows more and more about less and less, to the point where he is incapable of functioning outside his own narrow field. In the English-speaking world, we recognise the expert as the person who avoids the small pitfalls as he sweeps on to the grand fallacy. The generalist, the person who has experience of diverse areas, and the man with insight are necessary counterbalances to Fachidiocy, for it’s not academic background or endless doctorates which are important in revealing scientific truth: the quality of the arguments is more more important.

February 28, 2011 7:57 am

Bill Gates = unqualified to create Microsoft – the guy is a college dropout
Steve Wozniak = unqualifed to create Apple Computer – the guy was a college dropout
Wright Brothers = unqualified to create airplanes – they didn’t even get simple High School Diplomas
Never trust an amateur scientist. [/sarc]

Gary Pearse
February 28, 2011 7:58 am

I recall but don’t have a link that a boy in UK with only a high school ed. some decades ago wrote extremely insightful papers on sociology and public policy and, without a degree at all was appointed as a perfessor of sociology at the esteemed London School of Economics – an institution with 16 Nobel Prize winners amongst alumni and current and former staff, as well as 34 world leaders and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners and fellows of the British Academy.
Probably this couldn’t happen again with the Templar attitude that pervades science around the world.

February 28, 2011 8:02 am

Willis, you say: …”I am one of a dying breed with a long and proud history and tradition, a self-educated amateur scientist…”
I cheerfully disagree with you that you’re part of a dying breed. I doubt that your breed is dying, and I truly hope it isn’t dying. Throughout history people with stories like yours have punctuated human legacy, and I’d be saddened to think your ilk won’t continue to bless us from time to time.
I too have rebelled in similar ways, but to lesser extent, and with an 80pt handicap on the IQ. I’ve made things all my life, and consider myself an idea person. I come up with the ideas, and someone else make’s ’em work. Only they usually end up making the money. Like the ripped-off patent that would have had me comfortably retired years ago… But back to you…..
If there’s odds to be taken, I’ll put my money on people with your background migrating to the “denier” camp, with far greater numbers here than in the AGW camp. One side smells like science (at least to me), and the other like religion.
Thank you for sharing, Willis, I have the utmost admiration for you.

Ben Palmer
February 28, 2011 8:09 am

It was nice sitting at the camp fire and holding my breath while listening to your story. Thanks for so much insight.

February 28, 2011 8:09 am

Epic. Just totally epic. You have done well just to survive much less thrive as you are doing. Cheers and keep up the good work.

February 28, 2011 8:11 am

Very impressive. I am going to share your story with my 24 year old son who is working through a lot of stuff.
Your story about your back of the envelop assessment of the basic CAGW claim concretely captures my personal experience and, I suspect, that of many others here.
I look forward to your next scientific contribution.

February 28, 2011 8:14 am

A bunch of über-arrogant people tells the rest of us to stop thinking?
WTF do they think they are?
Wonderful story and keep going, Willis.

Roger Longstaff
February 28, 2011 8:14 am

“Simon Wood says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:36 am
REPLY: I’d be happy to come, but like Willis points out, I’m broke but I’m not poor. Feel free to apply. – Anthony
I’m from the UK also, and would relish the opportunity to see you and Willis lecture. If you set up a donation fund, I’ll gladly contribute.”
Mods – can you pass my email to Simon Wood? Maybe we can get something going here.

February 28, 2011 8:15 am

One either has logical reasoning or not. Maybe one is born with or without it. Your posts are always scientific and logical. You are a scientist, in my book. I am a professional physical chemist for 40+ years, and I know a scientist when I see one.
BTW, Zen is neither the moon NOR the finger. It is the planet Pluto, which is not a planet…

February 28, 2011 8:18 am

I was a slow starter, too. When I was 12 I was told I had the highest IQ in my grade in the state of California. It’s hard to be different, but harder to conform. I also didn’t like Berkeley. Still don’t.

Doug Allen
February 28, 2011 8:21 am

One of the main reasons I’ve also become obsessed about climate science and read WUWT every day is because of you- you old heretic. Thank you! I think part of the reason WUWT was voted science blog winner is because of Willis Eschenbach. Like you, I’m a social liberal. As a climate science messenger to my liberal friends, I’m seen as eccentric at best and a pariah at worst. And I always thought it was the conservatives who were closed minded! However, my belief in social justice and alleviating the suffering of the poor, not to mention a lifelong commitment to conservation, environmentalism, and real science as compared to PNS, requires that I be the messenger and tell my liberal friends that I can think of no government decision, outside of war, that has caused more deaths and suffering to the poor , than the first strategic response to CAGW, corn ethanol. And the second strategic response, to tax carbon, has done much the same, raising energy prices worldwide and especially in countries with carbon taxes or cap and trade. Booker has written that deaths to the poor and elderly occurred even in Britain because of the huge increase in fuel costs. With all the cutbacks that our states, municipalities and the federal government are proposing, the same thing will probably happen here next winter. Thank you Willis for continuing to give this old teacher (song writer, field biologist, ham radio operator and a zillion other things though a zillion fewer than yours) the courage to describe climate science and the IPCC’s misguided and tragic role as I understand them.

February 28, 2011 8:22 am

In addition to the ironic juxtaposition of the title and much of the content of this post, I also find the juxtaposition of these two quotes rather interesting:

Have the courage to sign your full true name to your ideas. Take ownership of your claims, stand behind your opinions. Anonymity encourages bad behavior.


My point is that none of that matters. Either my scientific claims are correct, or they are not. It’s not about me. Period. End of story.

So, if I understand correctly, no matter the ideas that someone posts, they lack courage if they don’t attach their name to those ideas?
And I’m also curious as to what, exactly, comprises “bad behavior”
Would characterizing large numbers of academics as “CAGW frauds,” who “retreat into ivory towers whenever their ideas are challenged,” and are “manipulating data so that they can publish papers to protect their flawed theories,” due to their vested interests, etc., etc., also qualify as bad behavior? Does that bad behavior only occur when people don’t attach their full names to their ideas?
Another irony, I’d say – given the degree to which such charges are leveled by people who do attach their full name to what they write, regularly, at this very site.
Willis, does your 180 IQ prevent you from seeing this basic bias?
The problems with the debate over climate change are well represented on both sides of the fence. Why is your focus on bad behavior, apparently, only focused on the players on one side of the fence?
To some degree, the bad behavior that exists among “warmists” is in reaction to the promulgation of bad science and personal attacks from the “denialists.” Is the measure of those phenomena proportional? I honestly don’t know – but to pretend that there isn’t a causal relationship between them is as disingenuous as pretending that “warmists” can’t viably claim some justification for their resentment that their ideas would be criticized due to their lack of standing in the academic community – as opposed to the scientific validity in what they have to say.
Let he who is always courageous and who never indulges in bad behavior cast the first stone, Willis.

Atomic Hairdryer
February 28, 2011 8:25 am

Wow, thanks for sharing that and there’s a book or three there. I had the sense you’d lead an interesting and varied life, but not that much. I’d also love to see the look on a typical big corporate HR person’s face when they read your CV. Ignore your detractors until they’ve achieved half as much as you have.

Steven Hoffer
February 28, 2011 8:33 am

Willis you’re correct. Its NOT about the person, no matter how impressive they may be.
As a worker in heavy industry I’ve seen examples of truly competent individuals passed over for promotion because they haven’t aquired the required papers. I’ve also seen the alternative hired straight out of university who spends 4 hours looking for an imaginary tool that a co-worker asked for. I don’t wish to disparage the university process, it serves a needed pupose. But a piece of paper under glass is no substitute for years of experience in the real world.
keep fighting the good fight, and may your interest continue to be piqued.

February 28, 2011 8:41 am

So, essentially, the moral of the story is that you don’t wont people to mind your person only your ideas at the same time you don’t wont other ideas without being able to mind the persons behind their ideas.
Sounds as backwards as when Stephen King of pseudonyms says that you should write under your real name only or like when Al Gore says to not use to much electricity. :p
Usually people tend to exchange ideas, whether that be on the current weather or the next president or the current state of flux in the scientific community, before exchanging personal information.
Anonymity is the fundamental right that makes sure people can freely exercise their rights to free speech. The recent hundred years kind of underscores the need for it.
I have yet to meet one person that has required me to give my name before engaging in communication of the exchange of ideas on a bus, train, plane, conference hall, party, pub, beach rally, news net groups, or what not.

joe myers
February 28, 2011 8:44 am

Wow, I’m taken aback. That’s quite a story. I wish I were gifted with half the brains, half the drive, and half the guts you so obviously are. I thought I was doing well as a
jack-of-all trades! I’m a babe in the woods!
If we more often encouraged people like you, and presented you as figures to be emulated, we’d be a lot more successful as a society.
Kudos to you, sir.

February 28, 2011 8:47 am

IQ of 180, sorry but I doubt it, above 140 sure, but 180? You will get attacked on this claim, it’s only a matter of time. I even doubt they measure IQ that high, the only tests I have taken maxed out at 140+.
For the record I think that termostat(?) theory of yours is very interesting and I like your posts.

February 28, 2011 8:50 am

Mr Eschenbach, the people who say you couldn’t possibly know anything about climate science because you haven’t got a degree in the subject would probably say you could never have been a real cowboy because you haven’t got a degree in cowboying either.

February 28, 2011 8:51 am

What a fascinating story. I know where you’re coming from. I once worked with a team reviewing structural engineering calculations. If we queried the numbers the response was frequently that they must be right because they had been worked out by a senior partner, with 30 years experience and a bucket full of degres and doctorates. We had to gently explain (so as not to prick their delicate egos) that experience and qualifications won’t hold a building up.

February 28, 2011 8:51 am

Thank you very very much for your long story. And for your excellent Curriculum Vitæ. Amazing! A life like this makes a wise man. Nothing less!
73… TangoFoxtrotThreeOskarMike

February 28, 2011 8:51 am

As a parent with young children in the school system I once had to deal with an in-group of teachers with an attitude: Parents are strictly ‘amateurs’ who should leave education to the ‘professionals.’ Eventually I got so exasperated with this attitude that I became a ‘professional’ teacher myself, just so I could work in the field. There are many fields in which we are all amateurs, and both education and climatology are included. Too often, ‘professional’ means merely that you get paid for what you are doing. And there is a biblical synonym for that: ‘hireling.’

Keith D
February 28, 2011 8:56 am

Willis I love the idea that you are one of those who had to learn the hard way. I grew up on a ranch and intimately understand the idea that “It has to get done.” I laughed out loud when I read “I came away with Leonardo da Vinci and Jim Bridger as my heroes, with the ability to do most practical things with my hands, and with the blind, wildly incorrect, but fervently-held belief that whatever needed to be done, somehow, someway, I could do it even if I had nothing but baling wire and a balky Crescent wrench.” This is my life on the ranch. I am going to show this story to my kids. Props man, keep up the good work.

Alan the Brit
February 28, 2011 8:59 am

Wow! Your candidness does you enormous credit. It’s a life story they ought to make a film about. I can’t think of many who would have had the courage & confidence to be so open. Well done, Willis. Of course there is a the risk that some of your early life will be used to cast aspersions & make ad-hominen attacks, but those are always the preogative of those in the wrong!

February 28, 2011 9:00 am

Willis, I am an ardent fan of yours and can personally associate with your growing-up experiences. Unlike many you have achieved much and your intellectual prowess is awesome. What can I say?

February 28, 2011 9:05 am

Willis… What a Great Life!
I too am a generalist, but you definitely have me beat. First, I mainly play bass instead of guitar. I only scored 104 on my IQ test… Hey, I was late for my psych class the day of the test…. OK. That was my first class of the morning, and I was subsequently tardy most of the time, but I was really late on that day! 🙂
I came to be a skeptic through the Earth = Venus comparisons in the early 90’s. Carl Sagan, a man I greatly admire, was very fond of using this comparison, and even though there were obvious reasons why it actually wasn’t a very good comparison, no one in the press would bring that up. Because it was Sagan, well, it must be spot on. I saw just how willing and un-questioning people were when discussing this topic. I am not a “denier” and don’t question whether the world has warmed, or whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas. In light of my short stint as a geology major (calc killed the dream) and my knowledge of past interactions of CO2 and temps, I simply don’t think that the last 30 year of warming is enough empirical time to provide the type of certainty the Real Climateers demand, certainly not enough to rewrite the geologic evidence which shows no causal relationship. But, I’m also not vain enough to dismiss the possibility that I’m in error. The trends of the next ten years will tell a lot about the relationship.
About two months ago, I got into a heated argument with my warmist little brother about something I had written on my blog concerning climate scientists advocating the implementation of rationing, and advising the rest of the world on how they should live. Jeff Alberts, a regular here and at my little corner of the blogiverse, suggested he read one of your write-ups on climate for perspective. My little brother shot back with, you guessed it – “Eschenbach isn’t a scientist and not credible” – and proceeded with the litany of ad-homs with which we’re all familiar. Before I could respond, Jeff scolded him and told him the same thing you advise in this column – argue the numbers and the science. The advise fell on deaf ears.
Anyway, thanks for putting in the effort to help bring more honesty and integrity to the field of climate science.
Michael J Alexander aka Sonicfrog.

February 28, 2011 9:06 am

Thanks Willis,
What a story, well worth telling!
I have published “The Thermostat Hypothesis”, Essay by Willis Eschenbach, June 14 2009, at
(Spanish version at

February 28, 2011 9:07 am

PS. I forgot to mention… I’m on my way out the door to finish replacing my head gasket.

February 28, 2011 9:07 am

the best you could do: going public with what ever will be found on your life and your CV.
Absolutely remarkable, impressive and courageous.
Thank you for sharing this.
Here’s something back for you. Keep it in your heart:

Eric Dailey
February 28, 2011 9:10 am

This is video of WE at the conference. I predict this will become historic record of great science. Worth viewing and sharing.
Thanks Willis for your great report above.

February 28, 2011 9:19 am

I will say this Willis I read some of your essay to my wife she was laughing and crying in the same paragraph. You really need to put out an autobiography. As for the science there are very few people that can put the math and the concepts of climate science down on “paper” so that people like me (high school grad no special focus) can understand them. Keep up doing what you do and know that those who care about integrity will support you.

richard verney
February 28, 2011 9:19 am

I would not be troubled by these personal attacks. It is a sign of desperation and the last refuge of the scoundrel.
I consider that most objective people would consider that you raised many valid points about the worth and significance of that paper. The fact that those opposing your view do not wish to debate the points raised and to discuss the quality of the science but instead to simply seek to downplay the points made by attacking your credentials suggests to me that they do not have a valid answer to the scientific points raised by you. What a surprise!
Keep up the good work.

February 28, 2011 9:29 am

A truly fabulous post. I’d love to just sit around some time over a beer and listen to your stories. The kid in me still loves that.
The only things I dispute are your statements:
1. “That’s why I put my ideas up here in the public square, so someone can falsify them. ”
NO! Disprove maybe, but falsify never! Your statements may be false to start with, but the person doing the critique simply points out the errors, they do not introduce the errors.
2. “So, attack is the very nature and essence of the science game.” Scepticism and sceptical inquiry yes, Attack, no. Attack is something you do to a hostile invading force, where losing has dire consequences. Taking a long hard honest look at what somebody says is a different kettle of fish.
I apologize for the seeming semantic silliness, but one of my degrees is philosophy. I have learned the hard way it is so often the unstated implications rather than the strict definitions that determine the impact of what you say.
I would like to thank you for bringing up intellectual honesty as the core issue in the climate debate. Indeed, I see it as a core issue in far more than just climate science.
George Riggs

February 28, 2011 9:30 am

Great hearing your story, Willis. Truely wonderful. It’s amazing what people can do if left free. Hey, it looks like Dr. Curry has found it, too!

John Peter
February 28, 2011 9:36 am

Willis: If they attack your person you must have said something they cannot falsify. Keep up the good work and thanks for what you have written so far. I always read your articles and feel rewarded.

Al Gore-mless
February 28, 2011 9:38 am

It is all just another distraction by climate (non-) scientists to stop people thinking for themselves and following the money. It’s hard for them to get people to beleive their BS with logical sites like this around!!
However, there is no getting away from the fact that you smell, Willis!

February 28, 2011 9:39 am

I have more formal scientific education than most PhDs and a lot more atmospheric research experience. I would trust your objective analysis before I would that of published PhDs with an agenda. If you need some help in preparing papers for publication, you can find my e-mail address at

February 28, 2011 9:43 am

Willis, you are by far my favorite poster here. I very much enjoy your easy-going writing style and your practical, hands-on approach to science. I have an engineering background, and I also take a very similar approach. It’s refreshing to read someone who seems very connected to reality.
Previous posted alluded to a very colorful past. Wow, I had no idea how colorful. A very enjoyable read.

Grumpy Old Man
February 28, 2011 9:46 am

This calls for an autobiography. Put pen to paper Willis.

Dave Wendt
February 28, 2011 9:46 am

Great post, great story, and great point! I have often thought it would make an intriguing psychological study to try to quantify the correlation between the extent of one’s specialization and one’s willingness to accept CAGW “science”. From the tenor of many of the comments on this thread it seems fairly obvious that a more generalist personal history definitely leads one to the skeptical viewpoint. Like you, my initial reaction to the AGW hypothesis was the little man in the back of my had telling me something about this just doesn’t add up, though my then level of information didn’t allow me to specify what it was. Back then my personal insecurity lead me to, at least partially, accept the argument that it was just my personal inability to understand the sophisticated “science” that was the problem. But as I’ve proceeded on this, now multidecade effort to learn more, I’ve been constantly reminded of the old Sufi story about the group of blind men trying to describe an elephant. Climate science is littered with folks who have dedicated their lives to studying various aspects of the problem to deliciously high levels of precision, but seem to be completely incapable of grasping the notion that, once their particular lab rat is released from the bounds of experimental isolation that such study requires and must compete with a million other rodents in the chaotic environs of the real world, their easy assumptions about what they “know” may not translate.
I still don’t claim to “know” that much about how the climate of the planet works, but have come to accept that as a qualification I share with most all of the more specialized actors in this farce. In the end it has been the form and style of argumentation used which has mostly moved my perceptions of the various players involved in this controversy. I find I don’t respond well to propositions framed in the preferred alarmist mode of “Shut up, he explained”.

February 28, 2011 9:49 am

This is truly one of your best posts!
I read it in one go and just could not stop.
I, like you, am interested in all aspects of life (but allas, not even close to your abilities) and fully appreciate your work.
I also think that the wider your spectrum of interest, the better you are qualified to pass judgement.
Keep up the awesome work you do and know: there are many many people enjoying and appreciating it.

Grumpy Old Man
February 28, 2011 9:50 am

I will repeat that. This calls for an autobiography.

Johna Till Johnson
February 28, 2011 9:51 am

Add me to the list of the folks who want to read your autobiography, or as it’s called these days, your “memoir”.
I’m a regular reader (though very infrequent commenter) of WUT since August ’09 and have gotten an enormous amount out of the site–but it has to be one of the top posts, ever.
Keep writing, and seriously consider that memoir!

Bertram Felden
February 28, 2011 9:52 am

I haven’t read all of the comments above, but writing that autobiography sounds like a must.
There’s a lot about me in a piece to say it’s not about me. Thankfully.
An absolute joy to read.

February 28, 2011 9:57 am

Wow – what a story. As a matter of fact, I will read your texts now positively biased.
Un abrazo desde Chile,

Brandon Caswell
February 28, 2011 9:57 am

I was tested at 176, so I have no doubt it is possible. But it is also important to know what test is being used. They only work well for comparisons when comparing to the same test. In some genius level is 140, others above 160. But don’t put too much into IQ. I know people that scored higher than me that can’t program a vcr.
I too have a farm background and I can attest to the idea that being a generalist can be a side effect of this. One day you might be rebuilding a tractor motor, the next you are reviewing chemicals to decide what will work best, the next rewiring your house, the next you might be designing a new machine to match a specific problem and then you fabricate it yourself.
I also have my university degrees, but I don’t consider them important in the slightest to my education. They were just steps you had to go through to get a modern accreditation. I found university to mostly be uneducational, in that very little of it encouraged free thinking. Most of it was memorization and regurgitation of the professors beliefs. Deviation from the “accepted” line only caused confrontation. Of course there was some exceptions and they were the bright points of my time there.
The feeling of satisfaction of learning something new also acts as a stimulant to learn more. That is what drives the true generalist. One of the things I love about my current work, as an achitect, is the fact that it covers so many other areas and interests.
But I think this does bring up the important problem in climate science. Climate is not a specialized field. It is so broad it covers almost everything in all branches of science. Chemical reactions, fluid dynamics, plant biology, planetary physics, solar physics, ocean physics, geothermal physics, geology, history, computer modeling, scientific measuring, statistics, mathematics…..and I am sure we could double that list if we spent another 30 seconds. How can you claim someone who studies only climate history or radiation budgets as an expert in something so broad?
We have a whole bunch of people that study a small piece of the big picture. How can they claim they understand everything involved? They spend all their time focusing on one trees in one valley, then declare they are experts in forest biology. To claim to be a climate expert, is to show your ignorance.
This is the problem we will see more and more as we tackle bigger and bigger concepts in science. It often takes a lifetime or more to understand the minutia of one small bit, of one small section, of the general concept we are studying. Such as genetics or climate. This is complicated further by the people who always want to rush forward with every little discovery and make grand pronouncements. And even more by people outside the research who want to use the discoveries for politics or profit.
It will take the combined efforts of generalists and specialists if we ever hope to move forward in our understanding of the increasing complex branch of science. If they are just gonna each declare the other is stupid and build bunkers then perhaps we have hit the end of our ability to forward science.
My thought of the day: “If you look closely at a problem and find you don’t have more new questions than answers, then you are not really looking.”

Alexander K
February 28, 2011 10:00 am

David L, I know Americans tend believe myths about their nation and every nation on earth does that, but research the history of aviation and you will find that the Wright brothers were not the first to fly, or even the first Americans to fly; a Frenchman, an American and an utterly isolated New Zealander were all ahead of the Wrights. Why powered flight became a reality almost simultaneously, who knows? Other engineering/technological breakthroughs have had a similar synchronycity and it seems that when Man is suddenly ready to take a big step, it happens all over.

February 28, 2011 10:00 am

A fantastic story Willis. It proves two things to me
1. The people who always treated you with fairness and respect, were right to do so , for you are a legend.
2. We have to keep treating the opposition with fairness and respect, for they too are people, and some of them too, may be legends. we just dont know it yet

February 28, 2011 10:05 am

Willis the Anarchist demonstrating what independent thought should be: skeptical and ultimately heretical. A colourful life with the common thread of non-conformity and independence running throughout.

William Larson
February 28, 2011 10:07 am

Mr. Eschenbach–
Wow, what a story! I have always liked your writing and I agree with your position on “It’s not about me”. I like how you have expressed it. Well, I hope you are still reading this far down the comments, because I want to share with you, a generalist, what was once told to me by one Harold Hay: “If you have what it takes, you don’t need a PhD; and if you DON’T have what it takes, then you DO need a PhD!” (I suspect you already knew this.) Best of luck, and grace, and keep it up!

February 28, 2011 10:10 am

Imagine what they would say about you if you were, say, a railroad engineer…

February 28, 2011 10:13 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have long been troubled by why describing myself as ‘a generalist’ never seemed quite complete. Now I know.
Your writing here is an inspiration, and I am deeply impressed. Get in touch. There is much I would relish discussing with you.

February 28, 2011 10:17 am

“Anyhow, that’s my story of how I became a generalist, or at least a small and not real pretty part of it, it got more interesting after that…..”

Sheesh Willis! I don’t think I could take the ‘more interesting’ bit. You’re just freakin’ awesome. I just hope someone sends this to Speilberg. 😉

Bob Diaz
February 28, 2011 10:17 am

RE: … My point is that none of that matters. Either my scientific claims are correct, or they are not. It’s not about me. Period. End of story.
That about sums it up. The argument either stands or it doesn’t. Any attempt to point to the person and say, ignore him/her because … is the logical fallacy, “ad hominem” or “attack the man, not the argument”. It’s wrong and foolish.
As a side note, I had environmentalists launch into an attack into What’s Up With That, attacking the person who runs it. Maybe they think I’m stupid and will buy into their fallacy.

Claude Harvey
February 28, 2011 10:33 am

Re: Alex says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:47 am
” I even doubt they measure IQ that high, the only tests I have taken maxed out at 140+.”
Based on the above statement, I must conclude that if you maxed out the standard “140+” test, there was something seriously wrong with the test you were given. Ya’ might want to read up on “IQ testing”.

Alan Bates
February 28, 2011 10:39 am

“Amateur Scientist” – a dergoatory term meaing absolutely nothing except the bias of the speaker!
“Amateur Scientists” working outside the support of academia have made significant contributions. As an example, it is worth a quick read about James Croll – another “amateur scientist”. See:
Also Wiki.
James Croll was a self-taught amateur Scottish scientist who developed the theory of the link between climate cycles and orbital variations, commonly referred to as Milankovich Cycles. Milankovich, however, was not even born when Croll’s book was published. And Croll had been working on it while a janitor/caretaker at a Glasgow Uni. for more than 15 years before publishing his ideas!
“Croll-Milankovich Cyles” would be more accurate. They are sometimes referred to in this way (probably only be Scots …)

February 28, 2011 10:39 am

‘Stuart MacDonald says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:40 am
Willis Eschenbach says: I became interested in climate science in the 1990s. My nose for numbers said that Hansen’s claims were way out of line. Here was my first and admittedly simple climate calculation. I figured half a kilowatt per square metre average global downwelling radiation (long- plus short-wave). People said doubling CO2 might be 4 watts per square metre. That’s less than 1%, and in a huge, ponderous, chaotic, constantly changing climate, my bad number detector said no way that a 1% variation in forcing would knock the Earth’s climate off the rails. I reckoned if it were that delicately balanced, it would have done the Humpty Dumpty long ago.
In other words, despite complete ignorance of the facts, you formed an opinion about climate sensitivity and spent the next 15-20 years confirming it. There is a name for that and its not science.’
Neither is AGW theory, but as Willis actually looks out of the window to look at the real world, I know which is more rooted in truth than fiction.
Willis can’t offer you another pint in the UK, by the time you reach this part of the posts you will have alcohol poisoning 😉

February 28, 2011 10:42 am

just a note of appreciation for sharing part of your life journey thus far. I have always appreciated your posts, first at Climate Audit, then here and at Climate Etc., and I have long admired your measured, patient responses to the ad homs, the anonymous and the personal: I see now why those reactions may have irritated you but not really phased you.
One added beauty of the internet is you discover how many varied people from all over truly value both you and your opinions.
I would add that yours is living proof that a practical education is far more valuable than a purely academic one: information that can be applied is knowledge, knowledge applied to the good of many is wisdom. Too much of academia is obsessed with the assertion of information as if it represents wisdom, whereas the lack of application in practice supplants wisdom with arrogance and dogma.

G. Karst
February 28, 2011 10:42 am

Willis: As unusual, as your life, may appear to you and others… you are not ALONE. There are many, here and there, with stories which parallel yours. It is in the “overcoming” where the real story begins. Tragically, if not for “luck”, we would not have heard your honest story, of overcoming. More people are killed by bad philosophy… than AGW. It really does matter! GK

Darkinbad the Brightdayler
February 28, 2011 10:43 am

You don’t have to justify who you are or where you came from.
There is a sense that all academic honours are distractions that lead individuals t0 take themselves and others too seriously. You know your own weaknesses and if you don’t, any teenage kid will point them out for free!
In the story its the outsider, the small boy who has the nerve to say that the Emperor has no clothes.
And yes, you are an outsider to Climate Science and perhaps because of that, can more clearly distinguish the woods from the trees.
Columbus had no formal qualifications in Geography, but he went out there and turned fishermen’s stories into a new world. The point is, he was prepared to go and look, to check the facts and he had enough self belief to pursue it against quite substantial opposition.
If I were you, I wouldn’t edit out the personal attacks. They are a barometer of how close you are getting to the truth in the same way that the sycophantic ones lead you away.
Dismiss them by all means as ad hominem is always the last resort of those who have run out of anything worthwhile to say and the first resort of those who never did.
If they can’t think or argue their way out of a paper bag, they are never likely to amount to much more than noise and chatter.
Keep right on with the blog, the Elephant of Science is slowly awakening to the gadfly that is WUWT.

A C Osborn
February 28, 2011 10:44 am

Willis, you appear to have led a similar life style to Louis Lamour. Been There, Done That, Got the tee shirst to prove it.

Gene Zeien
February 28, 2011 10:53 am

Claude Harvey says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:44 am

3 feet of circumferential slack out of my line”, so the required radial spacers must be infinitesimally small. Do the simple math and,
circumference = PI * diameter
You need to add 1′ to the diameter, so approximately 6″ spacers would do the trick.

John Garrett
February 28, 2011 10:54 am

Mr. Eschenbach,
I hereby propose to the powers-that-be at Oxford University Press that future definitions of the word “autodidact” contain a hyperlink to your curriculum vitae.
Well done “w.” Your efforts in climatology has made a real contribution to the betterment of human society.

Third Party
February 28, 2011 10:55 am

There is no Climate Science (yet, if ever).
There are only scientists studying the Climate elephant from their own perspective of tools, other, more basic, sciences and biases.

February 28, 2011 11:00 am

Behold – the universal man!
Great story Willis – great life – great to read. No wonder your stuff is so riveting to read!

Robert Clemenzi
February 28, 2011 11:02 am

While your [actually Whitman’s] suggestion that “anonymity” is somehow “not intellectually honest” has merit, I don’t think it is a good idea to criticize those that seek it. If Blaise Pascal had not used anonymity, he would have been executed for simply writing in a language other than Latin. Mark Twain obviously thought that anonymity was a good idea. Ditto George Orwell.

February 28, 2011 11:06 am

1DandyTroll says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:41 am
So, essentially, the moral of the story is that you don’t wont people to mind your person only your ideas at the same time you don’t wont other ideas without being able to mind the persons behind their ideas.
1DandyTroll, if you are responding to Willis, you are not adhering to his very reasonable rules by not quoting what you are responding to.
Anonymity is the fundamental right that makes sure people can freely exercise their rights to free speech. The recent hundred years kind of underscores the need for it.
That’s fine, but some people are still giving anonymity a bad name by using it solely as a tactic, a simple example being the intentional use of “anonymous” by multiple people on the same thread – proven when they won’t individuate themselves for the sake of the debate, while no one of them steps up to claim which comments are their own comments, because that would individuate them so that other commenters could respond to an “anonymous” coherently. Otherwise, in effect, it’s almost impossible to tell what any “anonymous” is saying overall.
Sockpuppeting is another abuse of anonymity, except for, again, those who think winning or controlling “by any means necessary or available” is the goal of debate or rational discussion, so that the rhetorical tactic is then purely manipulative instead of dedicated toward improving understanding.
And personal info is relevant to a blog discussion in the same way Al Gore’s lifestyle puts the lie to what he says about CO2=CAGW “science”, or at least regarding whether he believes what he says he believes. When no one tells me in response my asking, what they are doing in their personal lives to allegedly help save themselves and us from CO2=CAGW, they are proving themselves and their words to be either solely manipulative towards “winning” or else severly delusional.
This kind of info is actually on a par with what the ipcc’s intentionally excluding countries containing 5 billion of the Earth’s ~6.5+ billion people from having to follow the Kyoto Protocols says about its CO2=CAGW “science”: they don’t believe it themselves!

February 28, 2011 11:07 am

It’s not about me. Your reasons for requesting people to give you information about them is hypocritical as you’ve gone to some lengths, and passionately, to say that in matters of discussing science it’s your information/reasoning that matters and not who you are. To then accuse those of cowardice who do not want to play your game of ad hominem attacks in place of reason, on a blog site which does not require one to give one’s name, is, quite frankly, abusive.
Your point 3 and John Whitman are out of line. You can project reasons as you like, but it’s still none of your business.

February 28, 2011 11:10 am

Fingers pointing towards the moon:

Keith Grubb
February 28, 2011 11:17 am

Awesome life story Willis. I was reading a comment you posted (either at lucia’s or Curry’s site) about the earth’s climate being like the human body. This is all off the top of my head, so please forgive me. You were making a comparison of external forcing on the human body not changing the core temperature (I think). I was going to use the analogy, but had to cancel, because thinking about what was going to come back at me, was hyperthermia, and hypothermia. Could you help me make this analogy, in short.

February 28, 2011 11:20 am

Wonderful life tale, the ups and downs make the man, and even the downs look trivial as they slowly disappear in life’s rear-view mirror. I suspected you were a natural born Bohemian (that in the western sense, not the European sense, and certainly not the Greenwich Village or SF wannabe sense). I know the type because I’m also the type, square pegs in a sea of round holes. We have much in common in my opinion although we followed different trajectories (our early roots were opposite). Creative people tend to Think Outside the Box, and are indispensable in many, if not most circumstances. When I interviewed applicants for positions, this ability or character trait would most often be the deal-maker, the deciding factor in their favor. I’ve always described it as ‘Who would you want in your group should you find yourself marooned on a tropical island (or frozen wasteland, or an urban hellhole, makes no difference really)’. I won’t go any further with praise (there is lots of it here, well deserved) because I just know that you don’t require it to function and likely scoff at it. Perfectionism, its a gift, and a curse.
Have to agree with several posters upthread that anonymity will never go away, I certainly won’t do it. It is a tradition from the Usenet era where most folks were anonymous, some weren’t, but those were the exception. Interestingly the proportions (ratio of anonymous to self-identified) from then until seem to be about the same.
My reasoning is a little more apocalyptical though. You see, I am not convinced that all things political/fiscal/philosophical are going to turn around and get ‘better’. For the first time in my life I see the potential for real conflict here and abroad. Chaos is a real possibility because of unprecedented factors (massive leveraging of formerly home-grown business to the unstable world at large, and unimaginable national debt of which much is held by a Communist regime). No, for the first ever time I think anything is possible. The reason is that we have arrived at the 50/50 time here, 50% of the people are parasites, leeches attached to the bodies of the other 50%. What happens when we get to 51/49? If we in the 50% of givers decide to finally shake off the 50% takers (very possible here in the USA, and hopefully worldwide) it may yet get very ugly. Anyway, this is why I will err on the side of caution with relative anonymity and keeping every option available. Sorry about the detour into negativity, but I truly believe in the old adage: ‘plan for the worst, hope for the best‘.

Dr T G Watkins
February 28, 2011 11:20 am

You have many admirers and I for one am in awe of you. Thanks for sharing some of your story.
Stick at it and as always let the data speak for itself.

February 28, 2011 11:25 am

• Anonymous posting encourages bad behavior, boastful language, exaggeration of results, personal attacks, and general unpleasantness. I oppose it for those reasons and more.

Guns don’t shoot people, Willis, people kill people. There is plenty o’ said behavior right here at good old WAWT. I join you in being opposed to it, but wonder why folks on either side of the debate tend to be so selective when they find it offensive.

But that doesn’t mean that people who post anonymously do so because they lack courage, there’s a host of valid reasons.

Glad to see you add that explicit clarification to what you wrote earlier, because someone might have gotten the impression that you were suggesting that those who post anonymously do so because they lack courage, or that you were boasting about your own courageousness by virtue of posting under your own name.

Joshua, once again you don’t understand correctly, you seem to make a habit of that.

The thing is, Willis, that when you leave out important qualifiers or parameters when you make statements that suggest causality or explain how interrelated dynamics function, you shouldn’t blame others if they don’t understand what you intended to say. You should look on their misinterpretations as an opportunity to clarify your exact meaning, or to reevaluate what you said.

February 28, 2011 11:27 am

I judge my IQ to range between 80 and 160, although I can never tell what level will show up. I did get a “200” at a bookstore once by testing it right there from an off the shelf book on IQ’s. But I can’t just hang around bookstores for the rest of my life.

February 28, 2011 11:27 am

Willis – what a fantastic life.
Just goes to show reality is often much stranger than fiction.
Your contributions on WUWT are so fresh and edifying – long may you reign.
As for the ‘attackers’, i shouldn’t worry if i were you.
As my old grandmother used to say, ”nobody kicks a dead horse”.

John F. Hultquist
February 28, 2011 11:27 am

About that cowboy thing: One day I mounted a young horse along the rail of a round pen. We sat there about 3 seconds and I gave a cue for him to move forward. I watched his right front foot come off the ground. The next thing I remember was being above the rail on the opposite side of the enclosure (60’ diameter). My feet were above me and the rail (a green aluminum pipe) just beneath my outstretched hands. I latched on to the rail and my feet settled to the ground. I was on the outside and the horse just inside. He was standing as calm as could be, looking at me, looking at him. He liked to do things like that to me (it’s a long story). He made a great horse for a female friend – but not for me.
I don’t remember one instant of the “ride” across that round pen. I’m told that when very busy directing our bodies to keep us alive our mind is too busy to record anything.
So here’s the point – and it sort of relates to the person questioning the IQ thing – those tests are not very useful on the margins. The brain does things we can’t explain and test can’t measure. I’m thinking, Willis, that your brain might have been able to keep up with that horse ride, while mine could not. I am impressed with what you have shared with us.
Thanks, John

February 28, 2011 11:28 am

@Willis Eschenbach
Fair enough. It’s just very very uncommon for anybody too reach scores like that. Isn’t it like less then one in 10 million or that kind of magnitude?
And for the record the test I took was a IQ test to get a job and they didn’t bother measuring above somewhere around 140, and I did max out. But I remember reading that most test don’t go over 160 because they can’t measure IQ that high with any accuracy or something to that effect.
I too have a bad number alarm it just happened too go off probably because I didn’t factor in that you were a kid and if you were smart for your age it would show up in the score.
Anyway I repeat, you theories make more sense too me then the AGW stuff, and your life seems amazing, except for the bad military experience.

February 28, 2011 11:29 am

Willis, I wish you’d push that point about ITCZ CuNims being governors of temperature not merely feedback. It stops all ‘forcings’ arguments dead in their tracks.

February 28, 2011 11:33 am

Willis, you are “the most interesting man in the world.” Stay thirsty, my friend.

Charlie Barnes
February 28, 2011 11:34 am

I thought that was a great post, though nothing like that would ever happen to me no matter how many times ‘I could have my life over again’. I’m just not made that way, nor do I have those sorts of early experiences . I do agree with the sentiments about shooting the messenger when the message is uncomfortable for some to hear.
When reading your post, certain similarities with Richard Feynman came to mind and I was a little surprised that only one other commenter even mentioned his name. Anyway, Richard Feynman was something of a maverick and I don’t recall ever seeing anyone try to trash his work. Take heart and keep up your regular, insightful and enjoyable postings.
Charlie Barnes

Al Gored
February 28, 2011 11:35 am

Hey Willis, you have my 1000% support. This attacking the messenger’s so called qualifications technique is SOP.
But I did have to laugh at the irony I saw here just now in the Recent Comments list:
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
Willis Eschenbach on It’s Not About Me
No criticism intended. Its actually great that you address comments. But it this list is kind of funny in an ironic sort of way.

John Levick
February 28, 2011 11:38 am

Fascinating . A rare combination of intellect, rugged individualism and a life lived.

February 28, 2011 11:45 am

Willis – Thanks so much for posting that. What a fascinating life story. Those of us who understand how the real world actually works know that such a diversity of experience is incredibly valuable and sadly lacking from the mindset of many academics.
I apologize that I won’t be able to join in your call for non-anonymity, although I generally agree with it. Unfortunately, being outed as a skeptic would have adverse consequences for me. I’m not in academia but rather a senior executive in a large and well-known multinational corporation. Holding non-mainstream views can be seen as bad here too.
Interestingly, myself and my peers near the top of the corporate food chain are further examples of the value of being a generalist. You don’t get here or survive here for long without being a very quick study and competent (though not expert) across a dizzying array of diverse fields. In some aspects of my job I deal with teams of PhD-bearing academics (primarily assessing and funding or killing their research projects). I am often stunned at their naivete about almost everything outside their narrow field of specialty. It’s so easy to see how their insular focus reduces their competence even in their chosen field of study. Many of them also possess a nearly limitless ability to make relatively simple things unnecessarily complex.
I’ve found there are three almost infallible indicators that tell me I’m working with an extraordinarily valuable scientist. The first is the ability to communicate complex concepts simply and clearly, without losing important subtlety or nuance. The second is that they feature the uncertainties and weaknesses of their work instead of appending them as footnotes. The last is that they are interested and excited to engage with anyone who has a perspective to contribute, regardless of credentials or perceived ‘worthiness’ and especially if the new viewpoint is critical. It’s truly sad that these traits remain so very rare in climate science.

Philip Peake (aka PJP)
February 28, 2011 11:45 am

Willis, what can I say? I thought I had lived a somewhat interesting life, but it doesn’t hold a candle to your story. I think you could have done without the entanglement with the US military, but, even so, I suspect that experience, unpleasant as it undoubtedly was, helped to make you into the person you are today. And we are all that little bit richer for getting to read your ideas and opinions which these past experiences have helped to formulate.
I understand what you are saying about anonymity, and so have changed my name on this post to reflect that. However, bear in mind that what we are talking about here is honesty more than using your real name. Nothing stops me from changing that name to Fred Bloggs and posting a flaming pile of s**t. You just have to believe me when I say I won’t.
BTW – you ham callsign looks like it originates from the Solomon Islands? Maybe time to get a US one 🙂 I have no doubt whatsoever that the challenge of passing the Extra class license wouldn’t even rise to the level of challenge for you — if it does, let me know 🙂
Thanks for this post. It not only deprives people of “ammunition” to use against you, but also gives us all a better understanding of you the person, and the generalist background, which I too claim, although these days people are much more interested in point knowledge (which is invariably out of data and worthless within ten years).

Jack Maloney
February 28, 2011 11:50 am

Be glad of ad hom attacks, Willis. It means they’ve already lost the science battle.

kbray in california
February 28, 2011 11:53 am

You are a gifted and remarkable man. Your intelligence, integrity, and honesty
are enlightened states that many of us can only wish to achieve. Humanity looks up to great thinkers like you. You astound me when you write. You give me hope that there are individuals like you out in the world intelligent enough to identify where mankind (or manevil) is making grave errors, and come up with the solutions.
As a generalist, what would you suggest for the financial world and the seemingly impossible US national debt? I fear for my country these days… Some problems seem so complicated for the average brain, they are impossible to understand or even imagine a solution.
I look forward to everything you write. Your clear concise presentations make it all comprehensible to us who may be a little (or in some cases a lot) lower on the IQ scale. Keep up the superb work. KenB.

February 28, 2011 11:55 am

A great story and such an interesting life, Its nice to know the man behind the killer articles you write, you sound like a street smart person who can out think and out do many of the so called experts. You obviously have an open mind with a health degree of skepticism combined with the mechanical ability of a hands on person. This is what started the industrial revolution, put men into space and opened the science field in general by developing the tools to put the theory’s and ideas into practice.
Well done and keep on keeping on.

Roger Knights
February 28, 2011 11:57 am

paulhan says:
February 28, 2011 at 6:29 am
Bloody hell, Willis. Talk about laying it all out on the line. Quite a lot of your story strikes a chord with me. I always knew you were some sort of wunderkind, but 180!! Even the Mensa test can only accurately measure to 167.
Alex says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:47 am
IQ of 180, sorry but I doubt it, above 140 sure, but 180? You will get attacked on this claim, it’s only a matter of time. I even doubt they measure IQ that high, the only tests I have taken maxed out at 140+.

There are about three (?) major IQ tests and they have different top scores. Some, like those used by Mensa, top out at (I think) 160, another tops out at 220.

Grumpy Old Man says:
February 28, 2011 at 9:46 am
This calls for an autobiography. Put pen to paper Willis.

I agree. Continue to describe the remainder of your life. Even if you decide not to publish it, at least you’ll have something sensational to read on the train.

Alexander K says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:00 am
David L, I know Americans tend believe myths about their nation and every nation on earth does that, but research the history of aviation and you will find that the Wright brothers were not the first to fly, …

Even if that’s true, they were the first to be able to take the next step: flying a round trip back to their starting point. They had developed, along with an advanced wing profile based on a great deal of “lab” work, the crucial means of turning the plane, with “wing warping.”

Diogenes says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:10 am
Imagine what they would say about you if you were, say, a railroad engineer…

Funnee! (I wish I could up-vote it. Too bad that feature is now missing.)

George Tetley
February 28, 2011 11:59 am

And when someday someone asks me who do I admire most in this life and I reply Willis Eschenbach .The reply will not be I assure you, who?

David L
February 28, 2011 12:23 pm

SunSword says:
February 28, 2011 at 6:01 am
“I agree with all your main points except this:
Have the courage to sign your full true name to your ideas. Take ownership of your claims, stand behind your opinions. Anonymity encourages bad behavior. ..”
Sunsword, you make a good point. Here in Central Bucks county PA a teacher has lost her job because she blogged “nasty” (but true) things about her school, some faculty, and some students. She never used her name, the name of the school, the name of the students, the name of the faculty: no indication of who she was or who the people in the bog were or where the location was. However, she did post her picture. And from that picture alone they were about to put “two and two” together and the witch hunt began.

February 28, 2011 12:39 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:52 am
Roger Longstaff says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:14 am
“Simon Wood says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:36 am
REPLY: I’d be happy to come, but like Willis points out, I’m broke but I’m not poor. Feel free to apply. – Anthony
I’m from the UK also, and would relish the opportunity to see you and Willis lecture. If you set up a donation fund, I’ll gladly contribute.”
Mods – can you pass my email to Simon Wood? Maybe we can get something going here.
I’m game, I’ve never been to England. My travels always seem to end up in the Third World, my acquaintance with the First World is much scantier. And like Anthony, I’m not poor but I’m acquainted with broke …

If you want to visit First World England, you’d best make it sooner rather than later. It may be beyond even your ability to develop a time machine, but perhaps that would be necessary, thinking about it.
Fascinating, inspiring stuff, by the way. 🙂

February 28, 2011 12:40 pm

I really don’t understand the ‘lies’ part (then again I never read the people you reference)….
(Now, should you ever do…)
A sloppy reference to some other research… well… that would just be …’sloppy’
A ‘wrong’ view of a particular aspect of ‘climate physics’ that is simply and easily proved ‘wrong’ by known climate physics. Well that would just be ‘wrong’.
And so on….
But I’m not clear as to how any such ‘misinterpretations’ or ‘wrong thinking’ (should they ever exist in your writings) in any way become ‘lies’.
‘Lies’ would be “hide the decline”. You know, hiding the fact that there is something seriously wrong with your data/argument (that the politicians won’t like) and the only way you can get around this problem is to lie about it by… well… “hiding ..the ..decline ….” in the hope that none of those reading your lie understand enough ‘science’ to see through the lie you are presenting to them. Thar be real climate ‘lies’ Willis.
Anyways – I always enjoy your postings. I may have been late to the game but your Thermostat Hypothesis was a real eye opener and I love reading your posts on any subject. Keep it up.
And finally …. …paisley shirts and bell-bottom pants, we were unbearably cool..
Willis, that is just so wrong. I hereby reject anything you have previously made me think about, climatewise or otherwise. Couldn’t you have just stayed in the Army?

Simon Wood
February 28, 2011 12:40 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
I’m game, I’ve never been to England. My travels always seem to end up in the Third World, my acquaintance with the First World is much scantier. And like Anthony, I’m not poor but I’m acquainted with broke …

Our cold, wet, miserable country would be glad to welcome you. I’m not sure about 3rd world, but some parts of Moss Side in Manchester are pretty hairy 😉
I’ve been in touch with Roger, and contacted Anthony through the form on this blog, so hopefully we can get something sorted.

February 28, 2011 12:43 pm

“Finally, I swore that I wouldn’t take any more jobs unless they had a fixed ending date. I was done with serving indeterminate sentences. The end of the season, the completion of the house, the end of the harvest, I swore not to be bound by unending work as I had been”.
Indeed – you only live once, in this lifetime anyway. This is an amazing piece, Mr. Eschenbach.

February 28, 2011 12:46 pm

Fascinating from start to finish, thank you for sharing your life story, warts and all. Now I understand why your posts are always lucid and filled with common sense. There’s an enormous difference between someone who’s lived life and someone who’s only made a computer model of it.

Rob R
February 28, 2011 12:59 pm

Give me an open minded generalist any day. They don’t tend to suffer so much from indoctrination, as is often the way with those who have been down a more formalised educational path.
Willis, the path you continue to follow is inspiring. Don’t let the trolls wear you down.

February 28, 2011 1:03 pm

I really like what you had to say here:

I’ve found there are three almost infallible indicators that tell me I’m working with an extraordinarily valuable scientist. The first is the ability to communicate complex concepts simply and clearly, without losing important subtlety or nuance. The second is that they feature the uncertainties and weaknesses of their work instead of appending them as footnotes. The last is that they are interested and excited to engage with anyone who has a perspective to contribute, regardless of credentials or perceived ‘worthiness’ and especially if the new viewpoint is critical.

I’m a recent follower of Willis’ work, and in that short time I’ve seen in his writing evidence of the first and third indicators you speak of. What I haven’t seen is evidence of the second.
That second attribute is one that I consider to be an absolute necessity in order to know where to begin evaluating someone’s work. I’m curious if you or someone else might show me where Willis has addressed any potential weaknesses, what-ifs, contingencies, implications for future studies, questions left unanswered, i.e., the types of things one might find in a limitations section of a journal article, in the ideas he has presented on climate issues.

Grant Hillemeyer
February 28, 2011 1:05 pm

Thanks, Willis for all the hard work. Read and ponder all your posts, happy that you’re there chipping in with something quite useful, thourough, interesting, entertaining and fun. Thanks to the moderators for keeping the trolldom down to a low buzz here on WUWT. Just remember, we’re all out here, learning, thinking about it, talking to our friends about it, not taking anyone’s word for it.
PHD’s… keep in mind that CARB, for instance, is chalked full of PHDs ‘n such and look at what they’ve done to the good people of California in the name of science.
As for personal attacks, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down and that’s life, but those rusty old nails that stick up above the rest is what I love about this place.
Keep doing what you’re doing.

Richard M
February 28, 2011 1:09 pm

Interesting life Willis. Probably more interesting to me since we graduated from HS the same year. You certainly took a different path than most of us. By comparison my life has been somewhat boring, but I suppose others might not think that way. Good thing weren’t not all alike or we’d all live in a pretty crowded neighborhood.
As for education … I look at it this way. There really are certain fields where you want specialists. If you are going to get your eyes surgically repaired you do NOT want a generalist doing the surgery. Because of this fact you often see alarmists making poor analogies along this line.
However, climate is not for specialists. It really is for generalists because it spans so many different fields. That is why we see such poor statistics from climate scientists. It’s why Trenberth doesn’t understand where the heat has gone. One of the major problems with many climate scientists is they actually believe they understand the topic. Foolish souls.
Keep up the good work, Willis and thanks for all you’ve done already.

frederik wisse
February 28, 2011 1:12 pm

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth !

Dave Springer
February 28, 2011 1:23 pm

The old SAT (pre-1995) is an acceptable proof for membership in all but most elite high IQ societies. You probably took the SAT and might remember your score. I took it 1978 at 21 years old a few months before I was discharged from the military in anticipation of enrolling in a university. I got a combined math/verbal score of 1480 which is 99.976th percentile and translates to an IQ of 152-156.
My actual IQ (at least when I was 21 years old) was probably higher than that as I got a perfect score in the SAT math section and finished the test in about half the alloted time. In 1995 they “re-centered” the SAT test (read dumbed it down) and few high IQ societies accept it after that date.
One of the other commenters mentioned there are “special” tests for people with very high IQs and that’s true. For example the SAT wasn’t able to measure my math IQ because I aced it -it needed to be either more difficult and/or a shorter time given to complete it. A perfect pre-recentering SAT score is 1600 and that’s 99.999th percentile (IQ 163-168) OR HIGHER and the test can’t determine how much higher.
IQ tests given at 10 years of age aren’t valid for adults as the mind/brain is still developing and education (vocabulary and math skills) vary wildly making standardized tests difficult to design. At about age 18 IQ stays pretty stable until old age starts taking a toll. For the really, really gifted old age might be as young as 35. A lot of brilliant physicists and mathmeticians lose their edge by that age and hence find they’ve done their best work in their 20’s and early 30’s. I sure can’t crank out computer code as fast as I once could – I used to clock 300 lines an hour in my prime with few if any mistakes. Now I can’t type as fast, see as well, and undoubtedly can’t think as fast either.
Speaking of IQ and fast – a lot of people (generally those who don’t have exceptionally high scores) pooh-pooh IQ tests as not being predictive of anything. In reality the SAT test is a decent predictor of academic performance and that’s why college admissions boards require it. My take on IQ tests is that they measure speed of thought, quality of thought, and how good a judge you are at trading off speed for quality and vice versa (depending on the test). What an IQ test does not measure is motivation, perseverance, discipline, willingness to learn, and work ethic in general. That’s why college admissions boards look at your academic and other school-related history as well as your SAT score. A genius who doesn’t apply himself can easily underperform someone with a lower IQ who simply puts more effort into their education and work. But that said, when you get a genius who’s also obsessed with his work to the point where he spends most of his waking time thinking about nothing else there’s the formula for ground-breaking discovery. Einstein reputedly wore the same thing everyday and was rumored to have all identical shirts, trousers, jackets, socks, and shoes in his wardrobe so he didn’t to waste time thinking about what to wear each day. These people sometimes have difficulty with the routine tasks in life because they are constantly wandering around lost in thought putting every waking moment, and with Einstein and many others they used their sleeping moments too, thinking about solutions to esoteric problems.

February 28, 2011 1:25 pm

Interestingly, have just been reading about William James Sidis:

Stuart MacDonald
February 28, 2011 1:33 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:45 am
Had I done that, Stuart, it would certainly not be science. Once again, despite requests, and despite your complete ignorance on the subject, someone has shown up to inform us all what’s going on inside my head … you don’t have a clue what goes on my head, Stuart. You seem to assume it works like yours, which is a scary thought.
Yes, I formed an initial opinion on the question … what, like you never do that when faced with a new question, take your best guess at the answer? You’d be dumb not to … oh, wait, sorry.

This is you grounding the issue in the science? I’m ignorant, dumb and have some kind of dark psychosis, all because I reiterated something you wrote that you basically agree with. I’m almost embarassed to point this out, but its no more about me than it is you.
And yes, for the record, I have reached snap judgements before, but, despite the myriad mental flaws you have identified in me, I was never fool enough to confuse them with science.
Willis Eschenbach says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:45 am
In any case, for a quarter century I have striven to see if that opinion was correct.

Some time in the 90’s to present is a quarter of a century? I’m starting to see how you arrive at your climate sensitivity figures.
Willis Eschenbach says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:45 am
I haven’t found evidence to overturn it yet, but if you have some, please bring it on …

That you haven’t been able to falsify a theory you have never proved strikes me as underwhelming.
Finally, sorry to say I have nothing to add to the body of science out there that puts climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO² at 2-4.5º’s, unfortunately, as this collection of hollow ad hom’s demonstrates, neither do you.

February 28, 2011 1:34 pm

Wow, what a story. It helps if causes have heroes, and here we have a hero! I am proud of, and pleased with, this new hero.

Michael Larkin
February 28, 2011 1:38 pm

Good grief, Willis. You know the one thing I am surprised that you haven’t yet done?
Written a novel. You write very well indeed, and had me gripped all the way through. You sure as hell have a rich fund of personal experience from which to spin a yarn.
I’m being serious, Willis.

February 28, 2011 1:39 pm

Hi Willis, thanks for your story! It is a fascinating read. And very inspiring.
You have given hitting rock bottom a new dimension. You’re a strong person.
Keep up the good spirit. Enjoy life!

February 28, 2011 1:39 pm

Bernd Felsche says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:47 am
Thank you for sharing your journey. I’m glad that I didn’t have to live through that. Life’s been good to me, so far.
What generalists have is a sense of proportion.
A grip on magnitudes and relative importance.
That’s right, Bernd, and the best of them also have a finely tuned BS detector. In a couple of threads where political decisionmaking (my modest speciality, but by no means my only interest) is being discussed, I have tried to make this point.
The best politicians, and leaders in any other field of endeavour with real consequences, have what I describe as ‘good judgement’. You can’t learn it at school, but life experience certainly helps. It is the highest form of being a generalist.
I have met a few of these people, and they have an uncanny ability to assess a situation which involves data they usually have neither the time nor the skills to fully understand, a lot of unknowns and uncertainties, and high stakes, and make the right call most of the time. They are highly intelligent, but that is not anywhere near sufficient, as anyone who has employed PhDs outside their tiny field of expertise knows. They may or may not have a lot of formal education, but they never stop learning. They are not the best around at any one thing, as a rule, but have excellent abilities in seeking out advisers who are, and keeping them on board. Above all, when they get conflicting or inconclusive advice from those people, they make the right choices.
As I have said elsewhere on this site, in my experience the vast majority of scientists and other specialists are hopeless at politics, which to me is reassuring. It is not given to many to be both a generalist and a specialist at a high level. There are not enough hours in the day! That is why it is vital that on issues such as climate policy, it is essential to have generalists out there doing their part to keep the buggers honest. That doesn’t [mean] the generalists can be ignorant, just that they (we!) do not pretend to be scientists, but never renege on our right to ask questions and make judgement calls, just as we do when we choose which airline to fly with or which car to buy.

Darkinbad the Brightdayler
February 28, 2011 1:42 pm

I think I will continue to remain hidden behind the nom de plume.
If you find what I write here worthy, fine. If you don’t, ignore it.
It is what it is and since my nom de plume means nothing much in the wider world, what I write stands or falls on its merits alone and gains nothing of authority from its author.
As it happens, my real name and scientific contributions are equally obscure so nobody loses or gains by this.

February 28, 2011 1:44 pm

More often an amateur with good analytical skills can take the historical data and come up with a much closer result than someone with a Dr. prefix and a long string of suffixes. I belive that you can go to deep into theories and come up with the wrong prediction.

February 28, 2011 1:51 pm

<limerick compliment=’true’>
Meet the generalist! Meet my friend Willis,
Telling truth aganist liars his skill is!
He has been through so much,
He can tell with one touch,
If a science idea well or ill is.

Al Cooper
February 28, 2011 2:01 pm

Thank you Willis! I have been there.
I do not have your way with words, wish I did.
Hang in there my friend, I have your back.

Malaga View
February 28, 2011 2:09 pm

All that matters is, are my ideas right or wrong?

Well said… the mark of a true scientist.

Al Cooper
February 28, 2011 2:27 pm

Willis, I still can relate, but the second half of your story would not fit me.
(Should have read it all before I posted)
I was military all the way, gave everything I could.
I could not afford college, I was raised by my grandparents and they could not afford to pay attention.
Old joke, I know, but true.
Everyone can not be a solder.
I am glad you do what you do.
You are knowledgeable and should be respected in you statements.
I still have your back.

Pete Olson
February 28, 2011 2:30 pm

When I graduated from high school in a little town on the Oregon coast, I was 17. The night of commencement I told my parents I was leaving early the next morning for Alaska. A classmate and I and another fellow drove his dad’s new Ford pickup up the Alcan. I was in the throes of a reaction to a smallpox vaccination, so spent the whole trip up 1700 miles of dirt road lying in the back in a fever and delirious, the dust roiling in through the cracks in the camper shell, so that when I would come to briefly, my mouth and nose was full of mud. His dad let me sleep on the dock in the back of the pickup when we got to Kodiak, until I got hired on the Skookum Chief, a retired Puget Sound ferry that had been converted to a cannery.
We’ve been in some of the same places at around the same times, but I was a couple of years younger. You started out as a singer/songwriter; I’ve ended up as one, after spending most of my life as an emergency paramedic with over 50,000 911 calls behind me (after digging ditches, washing dishes, selling cars and real estate, building houses, rebuilding engines, and doing most every job in several lumber mills – from green chain to sawyer, with grader and fork lift operator in between).
I always enjoy your essays, even when I can’t follow them. I always appreciate your use of language and logic – and minimal errors. (The only ones I noticed this time were “more crazy than when I went entered the nuthouse” somewhere around paragraph 35 – and the only unforgivable one: you misspelled Willie.

barn E. rubble
February 28, 2011 2:32 pm

RE: “I am not an expert in chemistry, or physics, or (ETC. ETC.) . . . . I have good solid practical working knowledge of every one of them, . . . (Blah. Blah) . . . use the lessons from one field in another.”
An interesting read Willis, but how on Earth (pun intended) does the above prepare you for climate science? Don’t you need to specialize in say, 2D blackbody formulas and equations, so you can apply that knowledge to computer models that will simulate something as simple as a rotating planet with multi-level atmosphere? Won’t you need to disbelieve what you actually observe, and have observed, to embrace a faith that others (way smarter than you, by the way) have already embraced? Their numbers alone should have convinced you which path was the right one.
I recall back in the mid-70’s in Finance Math class we had a guest speaker from one of the five major banks (Canada). He was asked about which college program their bank preferred re: careers and advancement. He bluntly stated they preferred to take you in before college so you could advance in their system (or as he put it) their ‘college’. Learning what you needed as you went. This he admitted meant you learned their system only. Advancement was relative to their system. Moving to a different bank would unlikely be a ‘parallel’ move, let alone an advancement as they too had their own system. Not surprisingly staff and executive retention was always quite high. Perhaps that’s changed over the years but it would only have changed because each Bank’s system has had to change.
At some point it appears our schools of science have taken up the same practice of teaching how ‘their’ system works. I’m hoping Willis and other posters are wrong about Berkley. I’m hoping the Earth Project is what the creators have claimed it to be.
As context is everything, I was once told; ‘You can always trust a farmer.’ I have no personal experience (50 yrs) or evidence (anecdotal &/or empirical) contradicting that statement. And I believe Willis’ story started back on a farm . . .

Martin Brown
February 28, 2011 2:32 pm

By Zeus’s thunderbolts most interesting inspiring story

Pete Olson
February 28, 2011 2:33 pm

Moderator: Could you correct, in the first paragraph of my recent post ‘mouth and nose were full of mud’ from ‘mouth and nose was full of mud’???

Dave Springer
February 28, 2011 2:36 pm

Alexander K says:
February 28, 2011 at 10:00 am
“you will find that the Wright brothers were not the first to fly”
Of course not. The Wright brothers were the first to fly a heavier-than-air aircraft under controlled powered flight that took off on level ground under its own power without assistance, carrying a passenger, gained altitude from the point where the wheels left the ground, and landed without mishap or damage to the aircraft, and perhaps most importantly it was witnessed by several disinterested parties and well documented. They made four flights on the first day the first being scarcely 100 feet and the last 852 feet. The landing gear was damaged on the final landing.
Scientific American in last 10 years or so reproduced orginal articles on many famous attempts leading up to the Wright brothers in 1903. Witnesses were scarce because many individuals and teams in the US and Europe were racing to be the first real controlled powered heavier than air flight. These teams didn’t want outsiders watching them make the attempts lest the innovative design features of their aircraft get leaked out to competitors. Scientific American complained about the secrecy in their articles. The Wrights were the first ones confident enough in themselves to allow disinterested credible witnesses to be on the scene. Whether they were truly the first is arguable but they were truly the first to do it in a public display with many witnesses.

Ron Furner
February 28, 2011 2:42 pm

Willis – I wonder just how many of your detractors have experiences ( pleasant and not so pleasant) to match yours. I am, frankly , astounded by what you have achieved. Your doggedness and versatility should serve as a paragon to today’s generation of those in ‘The Groves of Academe’ whose 20 years experience, very probably, means one year repeated 20 times.
I hope you manage to get to the UK in the near future. The could do with some of your common sense. (180 eh. Could only scrape 154 – at 13 years old. Did’nt do me much good though)
Kind regards

February 28, 2011 2:44 pm

It would be quite remiss of this eminent, peer-reviewed Humanologist not to mention the story of ‘The Man who Invented the Twentieth Century’-
In book form I’d suggest compulsory reading and for the Climatology Club in particular.

Mark Petersen
February 28, 2011 2:50 pm

Amazing! Hopefully you will some day add “Biography Writer” to your CV.
I am going to finish my education this year and start working full time. I’d love to read about your experiences with frequently changing jobs and environments, or even better chat with you about it. I have been quite mobile until now, but I am afraid to get chained to one Job as an Engineer in one Location in the future.

February 28, 2011 2:51 pm

Willis, it is about you. It should not be, but it is. I say this because you have that wonderful and all-too-rare ability to cut to what is important and present your critical thinking in a logical easy-to-follow way. That is why you are attacked – because that ability marks you out as a danger to those who would obfuscate and confuse.
Don’t stop. And thanks for sharing your story. I feel humbled and even more admiring.

February 28, 2011 3:00 pm

Willis, Thank You.

John from CA
February 28, 2011 3:01 pm

Verity Jones says:
February 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Willis, it is about you. It should not be, but it is. I say this because you have that wonderful and all-too-rare ability to cut to what is important and present your critical thinking in a logical easy-to-follow way. That is why you are attacked – because that ability marks you out as a danger to those who would obfuscate and confuse.
Don’t stop. And thanks for sharing your story. I feel humbled and even more admiring.
I completely agree with Verity Jones.
I say this because you have that wonderful and all-too-rare ability to cut to what is important and present your critical thinking in a logical easy-to-follow way. That is why you are attacked – because that ability marks you out as a danger to those who would obfuscate and confuse.

February 28, 2011 3:10 pm

John Campbell
” but I’ve now resolved to keep utterly schtum”
Man just the other day I was trying to think of a band that did a song in teh 90’s and for the life of me I couldn’t remember.
Then I read your post. Schtum – Skydiver.

February 28, 2011 3:13 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:10 am
Alex says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:47 am
[IQ of 180, sorry but I doubt it, above 140 sure, but 180? You will get attacked on this claim, it’s only a matter of time—-]
[Don’t know what to tell you, Alex. The guy who told me that wore a white scientist’s lab coat and worked at Stanford University and I was a kid maybe ten years old,—-
My older brother was tested at the same time, they said his IQ was over 160, unlike he truly retired ten years ago as a millionaire on the strength of being the inventor of the first civilian version of the GPS and his long list of patents and inventions. Meanwhile … well, I’m a thousandaire ..] w.
I love the thousandaire bit! But – Whatever the actual number was re you IQ it is a bit academic right now. What I do know from reading your posts here Willis is that you sure have the ‘horsepower’ in that cranium of yours. You never cease to amaze me with the clarity and erudition of your posts – plus the added bonus of your wicked humour – that alone makes them worth while. Your story is also quite moving and extraordinary. You sure have packed a lot into your life – makes me feel indolent inadequate and complacent. But in the end your message is so very clear – and it is apparent from all your posts that you truly are a scientist. Also FTR I like the way that you suffer fools!
Thanks again

Dave Springer
February 28, 2011 3:14 pm

Roger Knights says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:57 am
“Even if that’s true, they were the first to be able to take the next step: flying a round trip back to their starting point. They had developed, along with an advanced wing profile based on a great deal of “lab” work, the crucial means of turning the plane, with “wing warping.” ”
An aircraft in a bank turn is less efficient than flying straight and level. When making a turn you must either add power or lose airspeed and/or lose altitude. Neither power nor airspeed nor altitude were available in any significant excess in the first powered flights.
In order to maintain the best efficiency in a banked turn two control surfaces are required, the ailerons and the rudder. Ailerons are all that are strictly required as they change the bank angle and hence the lift vector out of the vertical into the diagonal which pulls (or pushes depending on your POV) in the direction of the turn. This however leaves the vertical stabilizer(s) with a horizontal wind blowing against them. Use of rudder, called a coordinated turn, brings the vertical stabilizers parallel with the wind stream and increases efficiency.
I’m surprised the goofy wing-warping of the Wright aircraft was good enough given they were flying at the edge of the performance envelope in just straight level flight.

February 28, 2011 3:32 pm

There is a danger in anti-intellectualism if taken too far- Mao sent Chinese graduates to work as peasants in the Cultural revolution, and it didn’t do a lot of good. Not all PhDs are head-in-the-clouds types incapable of changing a tap washer. Not all ditch diggers are Einsteins. While many of the great advances and innovations are due to gifted amateurs, the present technological civilization is being maintained by millions of university trained specialists quietly going about their work ensuring our electricity flows, our planes fly, our crops are productive- and tradesmen and labourers too.
The issue with many areas of expertise at the moment is that we have lost sight of the need for any claim generated through intellectual thought or discourse to be tested against the real world, i.e. fact. And the need to show respect for both the messenger and the message.
Well done Willis. As one who has been slimed only a little at Deltoid, you give me heart.

February 28, 2011 3:32 pm

@Willis directly.
I was moved by your post to the point where there was something I was going to say to contradict your plea to drop anonymity in postings but on reflection, I feel compelled to say it anyway.
Like you I’ve been speaking my thoughts about the whole AGW thing for a number of years. Like you, my background talent is mathematics and I just knew modelling non-linear systems was simply idiotic, irrespective of the technology. It simply can’t be programmed.
In the beginning I used my real name. I wasn’t offensive or aggressive; I was just asking questions which didn’t have pat answers. What happened was threatening letters started appearing at my home. My home.
My home where my woman and my children live. Some of them were addressed to her, not me.
Thinking about it, I had three options; shut up, persist in commenting under my own name or go anonymous. I wasn’t going to be silenced but I would never put the ones I love in harm’s way just for my opinions.
I chose anonymity and will continue to do so. On balance, it was a liberating experience.

February 28, 2011 3:33 pm

What a lovely story. Good luck.

February 28, 2011 3:36 pm

WUWT would have had a harder time winning the 2011 best science Weblog award without your numerous contributions. As I said before when they attack YOU instead of your claims then you must realise that you are RIGHT OVER THE TARGET. Warmists have lost the scientific argument and have resorted to desperation and ever more shrill personal attacks. Sad!

John Whitman
February 28, 2011 3:40 pm

To all of the commenters on anonymity;

willis in main post
professor bob ryan says:
February 28, 2011 at 5:37 am
SunSword says:
February 28, 2011 at 6:01 am
Coldish says:
February 28, 2011 at 6:22 am
Alexander K says:
February 28, 2011 at 6:51 am
Roger Longstaff says:
February 28, 2011 at 6:59 am
Jeff Carlson says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:20 am
Nylo says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:25 am
Nano Pope says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:34 am
johanna says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:35 am
Joshua says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:22 am
1DandyTroll says:
February 28, 2011 at 8:41 am
Sonicfrog says:
February 28, 2011 at 9:05 am
Robert Clemenzi says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:02 am
JPeden says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:06 am
Myrrh says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:07 am
Blade says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:20 am
Mark says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am
Philip Peake (aka PJP) says:
February 28, 2011 at 11:45 a
David L says:
February 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

This anonymity topic has miles to go on many future threads before it sleeps. I enjoyed it.
I have always found discussion of ideas to be the most meaningful and enjoyable aspect of human life. I can not imagine not arguing openly in my own name everywhere with anyone. Great fun.
NOTE: But don’t bait the totalitarian dragon in its den. I was in P.R.C. recently. I consciously avoided walking up to conspicuous chinese secret police surveillance personnel and screaming “JASMINE”

Phil M2.
February 28, 2011 3:49 pm

This one made me smile Willis.
I’m sitting here on a sailboat with a box in the corner filled with vacuum pump various gauges and gases etc and a book on refrigeration which I have yet to read. I also have another box with a TIG welder and a book on welding which I need to master soon. I also had a book on carpentry and marine electrics/electronics but would consider myself a dab hand now.
You have had a very interesting life and I see now why I always find your posts so compelling. I never doubt that I can solve any problem that I set myself as well and always manage just fine. It is a state of mind that is sadly lacking in recent years.
Excellent article.

February 28, 2011 3:49 pm

I’ve just typed in a rather long comment which appears to have disappeared so here goes again from memory.
I was moved by the bravery and honesty of your post not to raise a dissenting voice but on reflection I’m going to do so. It’s about the anonymity thing.
Like yourself, I’ve been commenting for a number of years about AGW. Like you, my background is Math and I simply knew that non-linear systems simply can’t be modelled, irrespecive of the software or the power of the computer used.
I originally commented under my real name and essentially asked awkward questions. What happened was I started receiving threatening letters at my home. My home.
My home where my woman and my children lived. Some of the letters had been sent directly to my wife by the cowards. I had three choices; shut up, persist in commenting under my real name or go anonymous. I was never going to be intimidated but I was never going to put the people I love in harm’s way.
I went the anonymous route and have never regretted it. There’s a freedom there which I never abuse because it allows me to speak my mind totally freely.

Hans H
February 28, 2011 3:52 pm

Many thanks to Anthony Watts, Willis Eschenbach and all the good commentators here. I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend at this website in the good, intelligent and
learned company you provide. I come here almost every day.

February 28, 2011 4:08 pm

Nano Pope says:
February 28, 2011 at 7:34 am
You have an amazing story and a great future as a scientist. I can’t really comment much on that though, but I would like to speak (as others have) about pseudonyms.
…………..I know that the dialogue can become higly vitriolic in online debates, but this is the main reason for pseudonyms, to seperate the arguments from the person. This has its downside, but the alternative is worse. Allowing only real names won’t encourage civility, it will encourage silence.

Agreed! Also some people who use pseudonyms might be climate scientists who are closet sceptics!!!!! People have their own reasons for doing what they do (protect innocent family members?) and IF WUWT insisted on people using their real names then WUWT, being the winner of the 2011 Weblog awards, might not have happened. I might be wrong though but please take this on board – silence is easy.
*There is a multi-billion Dollar machine out to crush sceptics. Trillions of Dollars are at stake in insurance profits, BBC pension funds, government taxes, biofuels……………………. I will use a pseudonym for the meantime as I am not oil funded.

February 28, 2011 4:10 pm

What can I say apart from this is a classic post as it is always great to understand where someone has come from and the path that they have walked.
I read the story of your life, so far, from start to finish in one go and I am glad that I am not the only one who has trodden a crazy path.
At 13 I had already decided to join the Military to get out of where I lived and the crap we had. I was brought up in one of the poorest areas of Glasgow, Scotland.
In secondary school I was constantly first in class in all of my chosen subjects and my parents wanted me to go to university but I rebelled, being a rebel is more fun! They wanted me to go and study medicine but I declined and at 17 I legged it and joined the French Foreign Legion, it was more appealing than any stuffy university. I loved it and it taught me a lot about life, nationalities and how to interact with people.
I then joined the British Parachute Regiment, hey I liked guns! This again taught me a lot. I won’t go on any further with my career history as most don’t want nor need to know.
I used to be an adamant warmist, arghhh we are all gonna die type of person. This was after watching AL Gore speak that cost me 700 quid to attend; my table was way, way at the back! I went to see the clown after watching an inconvenient tax scam he he.
I was IQ tested by the Legion and I scored 20/20 in what is known as noveau generale. It didn’t allow you to score more than 20! I have completed Mensa and they state I am a poor 127, however it gets better.
I wrote my own code and produced my own model. I have now factored in the annual increase in my brain’s capacity to inhale brain farts at 0.5 degrees per annum and height increase of the average child at 4cm per year. I now have no fear of impending sea level rises as I will either be too tall for it to matter or hey, I can still build a boat! Please note that this model is only a prediction, but it is settled that my Science is correct and my coding skills are awesome, so don’t dare disagree or call me names. Deal with the Science and not me as a person!
My model “proves” that in only 16 years my IQ will usurp yours, so read it and weep!
I have not factored in the increased carbon taxation which will rob me of my income, so the boat might not be an option. I will just have to learn to swim a tad better, or learn how to steal the materials.
On a serious note.
I loved this post and thank you for being so honest and frank, it is so refreshing.
If you do come to the UK then forget England, Scotland is nicer and we are full of global warming, climate change, horizontal rain and snow when it closes the whole country and wind turbines are all shut down!
Our climate changes every ten minutes and even the weather people cannot predict what is going to happen. We always carry an umbrella, T-shirt, shorts, sun screen, snow shoes, sledge, few reindeer, spare socks, copy of hockey stick graph (just in case we meet a “denier”), spare boxer shorts and kilt just in case we poop our pants when we have sunshine and last but not least an outboard for my 3 litre V6 car!
I own a site that deals in statistics, real provable stats, not something made up or modelled. You can check the link on my name and this is the first time I have ever posted it here as I normally leave website field blank when posting a comment. The site deals with website analytics in real time, so what has this got to do with climate change?
Well if I can build a site to data capture real time site analytics then why is it not possible to create a medium for real time temperature analytics? This could be easily done whereby we have site members all recording data on termps in millions of locations, not just the stations used by the IPCC and they log the data.
I may not be a Scientist or a Gynaecologist but, I will have a good fraikin look!
Pete Laird
Head Numpty
To the spelling Police. If I have made any errors please remember that I did not ask you to pees (not a typo, don’t pees on my back and tell me it’s raining) review me!
If you don’t like my post then tough, as Achmed the dead terrorist says, Willis will keel your models!