Relevant quotes on skepticism – and a motto for our times

About the same time I had opened my browser window a week ago for this post on Bertrand Russell’s Liberal Decalogue from 1951, I had opened a page at The Inconvenient Truth by Guy McCardle on quotes that represent the very best aspects of skepticsim.  It has taken me this long to get back to it.

This one in particular, strikes me as highly prescient:

A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into. Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth. It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone. –
Denis Diderot

The short version takeaway is:

Skepticism is the first step toward truth  
–Denis Diderot

Given what we’ve seen in professional climate circles these past two weeks, I think that makes a great motto. Here’s the rest.

Since these are public domain quotes from multiple people, I’ve reproduced it in entirety here. Please give props to Guy McCardle at The Inconvenient Truth for collecting them.

Critical Thinking

Skepticism is the first step toward truth. 
–Denis Diderot

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. –
John Maynard Keynes

He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave.
 –William Drummond

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. — Albert Einstein

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. –Philip K. Dick

A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into. Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth. It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone. –
Denis Diderot

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. –
Martin Luther King Jr

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.
 –Richard Feynman

A scientist seeks the truth, wherever that may lead. A believer already knows the truth, and cannot be swayed no matter how compelling the evidence. –
Author Unknown

But what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away. –

Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success
. –Ed Brayton

If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
 –Anatole France

That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer. –
Jacob Bronowski

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. –

It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place. –
Jonathon Swift

Doubt grows with knowledge. –
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Most people would die sooner than think; in fact, they do so. –
Bertrand Russell

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. –
Galileo Galilei

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time. –
James Thurber

That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.
 –P. C. Hodgell

It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.
 –James Thurber

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
 –Bertrand Russell

The curse of man, and cause of nearly all of his woes, is his stupendous capacity for believing the incredible.
 –H. L. Mencken

The hard but just rule is that if the ideas don’t work, you must throw them away. Don’t waste any neurons on what doesn’t work. Devote those neurons to new ideas that better explain the data. Valid criticism is doing you a favor. –
Carl Sagan

For, to speak truly, that superstition has extended itself through all nations, and has oppressed the intellectual energies of all men, and has betrayed them into endless imbecilities.
 –Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

Learning without thinking is useless. Thinking without learning is dangerous.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite. –
Bertrand Russell

Broad-minded is just another way of saying a fellow’s too lazy to form an opinion.
 –Will Rogers

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality. –
Bertrand Russell

For it is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true. In order to overcome that tendency it is not sufficient to exhibit the true;it is also necessary to expose and denounce the false.
 –H. L. Mencken


A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and giving to them only that degree of credibility which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure the world from most of the ills from which it is suffering.
 –Bertrand Russell

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. –
Carl Sagan

In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
 –Stephen Jay Gould

That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence
. –Christopher Hitchens

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
 –Aldous Huxley

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? –
John Maynard Keynes

It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.
 –John Maynard Keynes

The correct scientific response to something that is not understood must always be to look harder for the explanation, not give up and assume a supernatural cause. –
David Attenborough

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
 –W.K. Clifford

It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it is true.
 –Bertrand Russell

Not until the empirical results are exhausted need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation
. –Edwin Hubble

If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. –
David Hume

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. –
David Hume

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.
 –David Hume

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all. –
Charles Babbage

The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other.
 –Francis Bacon

The enemy of knowledge and science is irrationalism, not religion. –
Stephen Jay Gould

To treat your facts with imagination is one thing, but to imagine your facts is another. –
John Burroughs

When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.
 –James Whitcomb Riley

The better a man knows the truth, the less he is likely to condemn. –
Sebastian Castellio

The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work.
 –John von Neumann

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. –
Bertrand Russell

On Sciences

Science is organized knowledge. –
Herbert Spencer

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true. –
Carl Sagan

Truth in science can best be defined as the working hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one. –
Konrad Lorenz

[Science is] a series of judgements, revised without ceasing.
 –Pierre Emile Duclaux

Science is nothing but trained and organised common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit; and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman’s cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club. –Thomas Henry Huxley

True science teaches, above all, to doubt and to be ignorant.
 –Miguel de Unamuno

[Science is] the desire to know causes.
 –William Hazlitt

[Science is] the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another.
 –Thomas Hobbes

It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.
 –Konrad Lorenz

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance. –

The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
 –Thomas Henry Huxley

Science is the disinterested search for the objective truth about the material world. –
Richard Dawkins

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he is one who asks the right questions.
 –Claude Levi-Strauss

Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don’t. –
Pete Seeger

Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
 –Albert Einstein

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. –Albert Einstein

Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
 –Adam Smith

The compass that today guides this timeless endeavor is scientific inquiry. It is science that gazes outward, providing the grand questions that challenge us to journey farther and farther from home. But it is also science that peers inward, exploring previously inaccessible areas of the Earth, and asking the practical questions that help us to make Earth safer, protect our citizens, and expand our economy.
 –NASA Roadmap “Exploring our Planet for the Benefit of Society”, 2005

Science is the only way of knowing – everything else is superstition.
 –Robert Park

Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air. Facts are the air of science. Without them a man of science can never rise.
 –Ivan Pavlov


So you’re offended. So fucking what? –
Stephen Fry (talking about religious objections to free speech)

Never argue with an idiot. The best outcome you can hope for is that you won an argument with an idiot.

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief
. –Gerry Spence

In the final tolling it often turns out that the facts are more comforting than the fantasy. –
Carl Sagan

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do. –

Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything. –
Peter Marshall

Whoever is still seeking for miracles so that he may believe is himself a wonder, who does not believe while the world around him does
. –Saint Augustine

If you don’t think too good, don’t think too much.
 –Yogi Berra

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.
 –Thomas Henry Huxley

Faith is believing what you know ain’t so. –
Mark Twain

The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of “Spiritualism” is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a “medium” hired at a guinea a séance. –
Aldous Huxley

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible. –
Oscar Wilde

When you have no basis of argument, abuse the plaintiff
. –Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. –
Eric Hoffer

There’s a sucker born every minute. –
Joseph Bessimer (not Phineas T.  Barnum)

Heathen, n: A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel.
 –Ambrose Bierce

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.
 –John Kenneth Galbraith

It is harder to conceal ignorance than to acquire knowledge. –
Arnold Glasgow

Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
 –Winston Churchill

Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
 –Thomas Carlyle

There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity
. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth.
 –Edwin Hubbell Chapin

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
 –Winston Churchill

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.
 –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Faith” is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see -
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.
 –Emily Dickinson

I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures but with experiments and demonstrations.
 –Galileo Galilei

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
 –Dalai Lama

A man ceases to be a beginner in any given science and becomes a master in that science when he has learned that he is going to be a beginner all his life. –
Robin G. Collingwood


Heaven wheels above you displaying to you her eternal glories and still your eyes are on the ground. –
Dante Alighieri

We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity.
 –Marie Curie

You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religions. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, intelligent enough.
 –Aldous Huxley

Some people are like Slinkies. Not really good for anything but they bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast over nature.
 –Jacob Bronowski

Truth exists. Only lies are invented. –Georges Braque

I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.
Marie Curie

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
No, not Thomas Jefferson – it was John Philpot Curran

The mob has no ruler more potent than superstition
. –Quintus Curtius Rufus

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity. –
Robertson Davies

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.
 –John Dewey

Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell it.
 –Emily Dickinson

Men talk of heaven, – there is no heaven but here;
Men talk of hell, – there is no hell but here;
Men of hereafters talk, and future lives, -
O love, there is no other life – but here. –
Omar Khayyám

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.
 –Denis Diderot

I would like to be remembered as a person who made trouble where trouble was needed. –
Studs Terkel

I have always observed that when people are interrupted in the performance of some egregious stupidity their feelings are hurt. –
Anthony Trollope

We are all born ignorant, but we must work hard to remain stupid. –
Benjamin Franklin

Four stages of acceptance:
i) this is worthless nonsense,
ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view,
iii) this is true, but quite unimportant,
iv) I always said so. –J.B.S. Haldane

A man should never put on his best trousers when he goes out to battle for freedom and truth. –
Henrik Ibsen

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
 –Thomas Jefferson

The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.
 –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible positions. –
Thomas Jefferson

Morality & Ethics

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant.
 –H. L. Mencken

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life, so aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
 –Henry David Thoreau

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. –
Dante Alighieri

There are causes worth dying for but none worth killing for. –
Albert Camus

The time is always right to do what is right. –
Martin Luther King Jr

In the name of noble purposes men have committed unspeakable acts of cruelty against one another. –
J. William Fullbright

Prejudice is opinion without judgment
. –Voltaire

You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.
 –Abbie Hoffman

Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself. –
Robert Ingersoll

There is nothing more unequal, than the equal treatment of unequal people.
 –Thomas Jefferson

Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof. –
Ashley Montague

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
 –Thomas Jefferson

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too
. –Voltaire

All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing. –
Edmund Burke

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. –
Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing in a biography of Voltaire

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities
. –Voltaire

Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. It is a silent justification affording evil acceptability in society.
 –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Prejudices are what fools use for reason
. –Voltaire

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.
 –Karl Popper

Alternative Medicine

Penicillin cures pneumonia even if you’re in a coma, but alternative medicine only seems to work when you are awake. –
R. Barker Bausell

I suffered from chronic hypochondria for years. Eventually I went to a naturopath and was cured with a course of broad-spectrum placebos
. –M. Cullen

There must be some limit to the thing. It cannot go on to infinity. (Es muss ein Ende geben, es kann nicht bis ins Unendliche weitergehen). –
Samuel Hahnemann (to Dr Schreter, Sept 13th 1829, Writing about Homeopathic Dilutions)

The orthodox doctor treats what you have, and the alternative practitioner says you have what she treats. –
Rose Shapiro


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Martin Lewitt

The real diversity is the diversity of thought.” — David Mamet
“Only dead fish go with the flow” — Sarah Palin
If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” — Benjamin Franklin
“There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions…It obviously endangers the freedom and the objectivity of our discussion if we attack a person instead of attacking an opinion or, more precisely, a theory.” — Karl Popper
“Our civilization…has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth – the transition from the tribal or ‘closed society’, with its submission to magical forces, to the ‘open society’ which sets free the critical powers of man.” — Karl Popper


“It is not that there are no certainties, it is that it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties.” Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22.


“A prediction, in a field where prediction is not possible, is no more than a prejudice.” Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog saw.


The truth needs no defence in a lie.

Latimer Alder

‘The Planet is fine. It is the people who are f*****d’
George Carlin ..on Saving the Planet

Great collection which will be referenced and dipped into often I’m sure. I can only add the saying. which is very relevant to a lot of accusations from climate alarmism. “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

Philip Bradley

One thing I learned from studying Karl Popper (although far from the only thing) is that while you can never be certain something is true, you can say with certainty when something is false (with some mostly statistical caveats).

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth but most manage to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go on their way as if nothing had happened”
I think it was Winston Churchill IIRC.

rui sousa

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”
The Buddha


“Always wear clean underwear because you might get hit by a city bus and never argue with a crazy person”— Grandma


No Sunspots for you Peter Gleick!
Good work WUWT and Climate Depot.

Philip Mulholland

[Science is] the desire to know causes.
 –William Hazlitt
Support the cause of Climate Science? The role of science is to determine cause. Science is not a cause.
Never be afraid to ask a question, there are many more stupid answers than stupid questions.

Sorry but Green-Activist Science (Acti-Science) owns the language now
you are not a healthy skeptic you are a “denier”. There is no spectrum of ideas just the false dichotomy of “with us or against us” the word Green, & Skepticism have already been hijacked next is the same vain is the word “science” they are attempting to own the word “Science”..note the term used in the Desmogblog PR “Anti-science”
– is still fundraising for Gleick’s NCSE with this post “The Anti-science agendas invade the schools; not just Creationism anymore”
QUOTE – One disturbing point in this piece is the use of the word “skeptic” and “skeptical”. Everyone should be skeptical but that doesn’t mean “antagonistic” or “denialist”, it means “looking for evidence”. There’s no reason to be skeptical that global warming is happening.ENDQUOTE

Johnny Honda

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

If only John Maynard Keynes would follow his own advice!
There is a Russian joke, usually ascribed to Stalin:
“Facts are stubborn things. So much the worse for the facts.”

Tim F

To know that you do not know is the best.
To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.
Lao Tzu

Anthony, this is a great list. You know how much I support what you have done, your principles, your hard work, your scientific excellence.
However, it irks me, once again, to see the unnecessary addition of negative comments relating to “alternative medicine”. These are the same kind of remarks that we hear from “warmists”, that we rightly eschew, challenge, and produce data to contradict.
At some point I clearly need to get Ben Goldacres’ book, to start to take it apart properly. Here I have only time for a short comment, and no time to work on, say, a proper article at a standard and with an approach that would speak to the WUWT environment. I still want to stay with Climate Science, until I have done all I can with getting a wiki on the road for others to take on and develop so that it can be owned by the whole climate skeptics community. I am doing this because I care about restoring integrity in science, and because getting one’s basic facts always seems to be step one, step two, and likely step three, in overcoming prejudice, ignorance and corruption of the science. Like the basic temperature data for Climate Science.
The remarks on “alternative medicine” show me clearly the need to also address what I know, and bitterly know, is deep albeit unconscious, uninformed, onesided prejudice in other areas. This too is part of the work needed to restore integrity to Science.
I have seen much “alternative” medicine work, and work completely, where everything else has failed, and failed badly, for years. This does not make all “alternative” medicine ok, or even all practitioners within any one “alternative” discipline ok. Nor does it deny the placebo effect. But it does go beyond the scurrilous kind of treatment Nature magazine gave to Professor Benveniste, and the pseudoreligious pseudoscientific dogma and limitations in what James Randi practiced. And that is opening a can of worms here, which I cannot answer at half-cock, because that will simply create more confusion. It needs thoroughness, and ability to forestall the likely objections here.
Please, Anthony, stay with what you truly know about, and try to avoid being judgemental in areas where you only have the “consensus” opinion to draw on.


I think the inclusion of quotes about alternative medicine in the list is appropriate – alternative medicine is similar in many respects to Climate Science’s CAGW. Both are highly dependent on models which are relatively uncritically accepted by their practitioners, despite contrary evidence or lack of certainty. From these inadequate and relatively unproven models, sometimes expensive and largely useless treatments are confidently derived.
In the case of alternative medicine, positive treatment results are cited as proof of the underlying models, despite the strong probability of other factors having a major influence (e.g. the body’s own defences and a placebo effect). In Climate Science, partially correct temperature predictions are cited as proof of models, despite the likelihood of many other factors having a major influence.
Climate Science and alternative medicine could be immeasurably improved if their practitioners were to reduce their unwarranted confidence in particular models and were willing to accept only good quality evidence and either change or discard their models based on that evidence. Since the time of Galileo, this approach has been a requirement of sound science.

Peter Kerr

From Robert Boyle’s 1661 book “The Sceptical Chymist”:
“A considering man may very well question the truth of those very suppositions which chymists as well as peripatetics, without proving, take for granted; and upon which depends the validity of the inferences they draw from their experiments… which though a chymist perhaps will not, yet I do, look upon as the most important, as well as difficult, part of my task.”
OK, the sentence is rather long and wandering for modern taste, but this quote from a scientist whose work lies at the very foundation of climate science should be better known, both for itself and the “Sceptical” in the title. In more punchy modern style he’s saying “These guys aren’t skeptical enough: they don’t examine their assumptions, which is the hardest thing to do in science, so they get the wrong answers”.
Perhaps today we would cross out the word “chymist” and amend the passage to read “…though a climate scientist perhaps will not…”.

William Astley

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it” Adolf Hitler
“Obviously, history has proven Hitler’s “big lie and continue to lie” strategy to be incorrect. The belief in the truth and the fight for the truth is a powerful motivation. In the field of science, in the end, the truth will prevail. The pursuit of the truth is the essense of science. Public policy that is based on lies leads to anarchy.” William Astley
“Lying is done with words and also with silence.” Adrienne Rich
“The mean of all the 159 NOAA sites gives a rate of 0.5 mm/year to 0.6 mm/year (Burton 2010). A better approach, however, is to exclude those sites that represent uplifted and subsided areas (Figure 4). This leaves 68 sites of reasonable stability (still with the possibility of an exaggeration of the rate of change, as discussed above). These sites give a present rate of sea level rise in the order of 1.0 (± 1.0) mm/year. This is far below the rates given by satellite altimetry, and the smell of a “sea-levelgate” gets stronger.
When the satellite altimetry group realized that the 1997 rise was an ENSO signal, and they extended the trend up to 2003, they seemed to have faced a problem: There was no sea level rise visible, and therefore a “reinterpretation” needed to be undertaken. (This was orally confirmed at the Global Warming meeting held by the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow in 2005, which I attended). Exactly what was done remains unclear, as the satellite altimetry groups do not specify the additional “corrections” they now infer. In 2003, the satellite altimetry record (Aviso 2003) suddenly took a new tilt—away from the quite horizontal record of 1992-2000, seen in Figures 5 and 6—of 2.3 (±0.1) mm/year (Figure 7).”
“As reported above regarding such adjustments, an IPCC member told me that “We had to do so, otherwise it would not be any trend,” and this seems exactly to be the case. This means that we are facing a very grave, if not to say, unethical, “sea-level-gate.” Therefore, the actual “instrumental record” of satellite altimetry (Figure 10) gives a sea level rise around 0.0 mm/year. This fits the observational facts much better, and we seem to reach a coherent
picture of no, or, at most, a minor (in the order of 0.5 mm/yr), sea level rise over the last 50 years.”
Estimating future sea level changes from past records by Nils-Axel Mörner
“In the last 5000 years, global mean sea level has been dominated by the redistribution of water masses over the globe. In the last 300 years, sea level has been oscillation close to the present with peak rates in the period 1890–1930. Between 1930 and 1950, sea fell. The late 20th century lack any sign of acceleration. Satellite altimetry indicates virtually no changes in the last decade. Therefore, observationally based predictions of future sea level in the year 2100 will give a value of + 10 +/- 10 cm (or +5 +/- 5 cm), by this discarding model outputs by IPCC as well as global loading models. This implies that there is no fear of any massive future flooding as claimed in most global warming scenarios.”
Hurricane Gate
“After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns…
Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4’s Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity” along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe….
..The IPCC assessments in 1995 and 2001 also concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the hurricane record…Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted)….
I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound. As the IPCC leadership has seen no wrong in Dr. Trenberth’s actions and have retained him as a Lead Author for the AR4, I have decided to no longer participate in the IPCC AR4.”


“Skepticism is the first step toward truth.”
Denialism is continuing to walk away from well established truth and pretending you are stepping towards it.
I’d like to ask Anthony a question.
My presumption is that Anthony doesn’t believe that there is enough evidence to support action on AGW. True?
If this is the case, he must know what evidence he would require for the opposite to be true.
At one point, he said he would accept the results of the BEST study but then backed away from this.
So, the sincere question, in 2 parts, is: What is the evidence that most convinces you of your position and what is the evidence and what would you have to see from the science to accept that AGW is something we should mitigate against?
So far, I have not found a “sceptic” willing to answer it. I wonder why?
30 years of no significant warming as evident in the surface temp record would pretty much be enough to change my mind.


Nice quote from Stephen Fry. Correct me if I’m wrong, though, but isn’t he regularly expressing offence at those who don’t share his beliefs?


… and for devotees of climate models, here’s some Eastern wisdom:
‘Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself’

“information is not knowledge”
Frank Zappa

Gary D.

@ Stew Green
Isn’t the term Denier, rather than Skeptic, what we should expect from the warmists. After all, it is the opposite of Believer.

Steve C

Nice. One or two more (Guy McCardle, feel free!):
“Science is a flickering light in our darkness, it is but the only one we have and woe to him who would put it out.” (Morris Cohen)
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.” (Richard Feynmann)
“My kingdom is as wide as the universe and my wants have no limits. I go forward always, freeing spirits and weighing worlds, without fear, without compassion, without love, without God. I am called Science.” (Gustave Flaubert)
“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” (Galileo)
“If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science, it is opinion.” (Robert Heinlein)
And one for climate science:
“Science policy is to science as bird shot is to birds.” (Petr Beckman)


I know it’s a recent quote, but:
“After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.” – Megan McArdle


Is there a better quote about the climate debate than this gem by Feynman?
“It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.”

Glenn A. Plant

The difference between a “Denier” and a “Skeptic” is that a Denier will refuse to look at the data while a Skeptic will insist on looking at the data.
The great difficulty in arguing with logic against an irrational argument is that the irrational argument does not need to make sense.

Steve C

Yet more:
“There is nothing particularly scientific about excessive caution. Science thrives on daring generalisations.” (Lancelot Hogben)
“I am too much of a sceptic to deny the possibility of anything.” (T.H. Huxley)
“The great tragedy of science is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.” (T.H. Huxley)
“The hope of science is the perfection of the human race. The hope of theology is the salvation of the few and the damnation of almost everybody.” (Robert Green Ingersoll)
“In the world of human thought generally and in physical science particularly, the most fruitful concepts are those to which it is impossible to attach a well defined meaning.” (Hendrick Anthony Kramers)
“The incompatibility between science and religion is simply this: a scientist will not believe anything until he sees it; a religious man will not see anything until he believes in it. Do you see the difference? Do you believe it?” (Anon)
“Science would be ruined if (like sports) it were to put competition above everything else, and if it were to clarify the rules of competition by withdrawing into narrow defined specialities. The rare scholars who are nomads-by-choice are essential to the intellectual welfare of the settled disciplines.” (Benoit Mandelbrot)
“If you believe in Ogopogo, or any other mystical beast, you will likely see one. If you are a sceptic, you never will.” (Mary Moon)
“As long as men are free to ask what they must … free to say what they think … free to think what they will … freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.” (Robert Oppenheimer)
“There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.” (Robert Oppenheimer)
“I can understand harbouring a mistrust of technology. I myself wouldn’t be inclined to picnic nude in Bhopal. But to mistrust science and deny the validity of the scientific method is to resign your job as a human. You’d better go look for work as a plant or a wild animal.” (P.J. O’Rourke)
“Science is the search for truth … it is not a game in which one tries to beat his opponent, to do harm to others.” (Linus Pauling)
“Science is one thing and Wisdom is another. Science is an edged tool, with which men play like children, and cut their own fingers.” (Thomas Love Peacock)
“Science is facts; just as houses are made of stones, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.” (Henri Poincare)
“Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions.” (Vera Rubin)
“In art, nothing worth doing can be done without genius; in science even a very moderate capacity can contribute to a supreme achievement.” (Bertrand Russell)
“Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know.” (Bertrand Russell)
“Sceptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.” (Carl Sagan)
“Scepticism is a hedge against vulnerability.” (Charles Thomas Samuels)
“The true contrast between science and myth is more nearly touched when we say that science alone is capable of verification.” (Santayana)
“Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer.” (Santayana)
“Science is nothing but developed perception, integrated intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated.” (Santayana)
“Science is the refusal to believe on the basis of hope.” (C.P. Snow)
“Education has failed in a very serious way to convey the most important lesson science can teach: scepticism.” (David Suzuki)
Sorry. My quotes fill over 600K of text file, these are just the scientific/sceptical ones.

I usually like Mencken, but I found his quote about the necessity to “expose and denounce the false” to verge chillingly on Big Brotherism. Of course it’s true, but then so are most of the tyrant’s sayings, taken at face value. They just mean something a little more sinister than one sees on the surface.


Lucy Skywalker says:
February 25, 2012 at 3:48 am

Please, Anthony, stay with what you truly know about, and try to avoid being judgemental in areas where you only have the “consensus” opinion to draw on.

Indeed, and Lucy is correct. Get this: The body heals itself–most often in spite of human (doctor) intervention.
But my personal consensus is this: I’m old enough to have watched a number of my relatives pass on. Those that have adhered to the allopathic philosophy lived about 10 years less than those that adhered to a homeopathic approach. A cousin of mine, 3 months my senior, is now applying for disability because of a number of health-related issues. In contrast, I have vibrant health. The difference? About 15 years ago the doctors wanted to load me up on a range of pharmaceutical drugs to cover a number of maladies but instead I changed my diet, started to exercise, drink more water, and got into nutritional supplements and became a live blood analyst. My cousin, on the other hand, did none of these and got hooked on pharmaceutical drugs and has gone downhill ever since. I can now run circles around him. (Pharmaceutical drugs are by definition “toxins”–pharmaceutical companies can only get “toxins” (in most cases natural substances they have chemically altered) designated as drugs to patent, push, and thereby profit. Natural substances can’t be patented.)
Be skeptical if you want, but how many of you over 60 can drop and give me 50 military pushups? Nobody? I can do it without breaking a sweat. And I don’t take any drugs.
My thought of the day: “As the diameter of our circle of knowledge increases, the circumfrence of our ignorance outpaces it by pi. Hence the truly intelligent person is never egotistical–for the more he knows, the more he realizes there’s so much more he doesn’t know.”
And as far as government goes: “Anytime the government gets involved in the economy, it creates a shortage in one sector and a surplus in another, and the taxpayer always makes up the difference.

Mickey Reno

I’ve always liked:
“If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”
– Baron Ernest Rutherford of Nelson.


Exp says:
February 25, 2012 at 4:38 am

“Skepticism is the first step toward truth.”

So, the sincere question, in 2 parts, is: What is the evidence that most convinces you of your position and what is the evidence and what would you have to see from the science to accept that AGW is something we should mitigate against?
So far, I have not found a “sceptic” willing to answer it. I wonder why?

Wonder no longer. The reason is that there is no answer for a lie. Like Aristotle, I shall pose a question:
Where is your evidence that this “AGW” of yours poses a serious problem? For what I’ve seen (based on the assumption you’re still blaming CO2 for your plethora of problems), is that the gas is beneficial and what little warming we’re seeing from CO2 is beneficial also.
So my turn: Do you have any evidence we’ll see catastrophic response from the normalization of CO2 (geologically speaking)? If so, please state it. Prove the null hypothesis is wrong–show testable, empiricle evidence that CO2 is the cause of crop migration, species migration, ice and glacier loss, ocean acidificaiton, etc, etc.
On the other hand, there is very strong evidence that the earth is greening up (I see it myself)–and somehow this is bad from an environmental standpoint? Do you want the human race to struggle more than it does? Do you want population control or even population reduction? Is famine fine with you? Is that what you’re after? Are you a true environmentalist and concerned about humanity or are you just a pawn of the UN/IPCC?
So I shall pose my own question for all AGW …umm….. (thinking of an appropriate word here)… control freaks. Yes, that’s appropriate: AGW Control Freaks: Where is your evidence that additional atmospheric CO2 isn’t beneficial? I’ve not found a “control freak” willing to answer it or admit to it. But here’s the difference–I don’t wonder why. I know. I know you can’t (in good conscience or with facts) be willing to lie about the benefits of CO2. The earth is greening up and you know it. What’s not to like?
That response rather changes the whole game, doesn’t it, Exp? So much for AGW Control Freaks. You’ve received your answer. You should be satisfied.

More Soylent Green!

If I was really snarky, I would include something like “Be first with the truth,” but I won’t go there.


Glenn A. Plant says:
February 25, 2012 at 6:07 am
The difference between a “Denier” and a “Skeptic” is that a Denier will refuse to look at the data while a Skeptic will insist on looking at the data.
And once the sceptic finds the data doesn’t match the hypothesis/theory being proposed they get denounced as “deniers”.
But then bigotry and irrationality never did show any reason.


Ha, leetle typo- Was supposed to say “bigotry”….bogotry is a new word i think. 🙂

Posted on February 25, 2012 by Anthony Watts
This one in particular, strikes me as highly prescient:
“A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. “

Ignoratio elenchi / Irrelevant conclusion
Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth.
Ignoratio elenchi / Irrelevant conclusion
It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone. –

Denis Diderot

To apply generally to call a thing in question has no reason except the idea to call a thing in question; there is no other criteria then this idea and so there is no prove why this is a step to truth, it could also be a step back from truth.
“The fallacy of Irrelevant Conclusion consists of claiming that an argument supports a particular conclusion when it is actually logically nothing to do with that conclusion.”
It is in general a problem to argue on No_thing, because it has no existence. Parmenides has learned this is a trap. It is also a problem if you divide 3 by nothing [0] or divide 4 by nothing [0]. It leads the fallacy that in both calculations the result equal to infinite and to follow that 3 is equal 4.
There is no touchstone outside of the own indivddual consciousness;only the individual consciousness is the reference to discriminate truth from untruth. This and logic IS, and it can be understood that to to call logic in question leads the mind astray.

Chris F

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities
. –Voltaire
This I believe sums up the deep environmental movement most accurately, and those who head up the deep environmental movement are some of the most influential people of our time.
Very scary.


Exp says:
February 25, 2012 at 4:38 am
So, the sincere question, in 2 parts, is: What is the evidence that most convinces you of your position and what is the evidence and what would you have to see from the science to accept that AGW is something we should mitigate against?
So far, I have not found a “sceptic” willing to answer it. I wonder why?
30 years of no significant warming as evident in the surface temp record would pretty much be enough to change my mind.
The flaw in your argument EXP is that you are assuming that all warming during the 20 th Century is due to AGW. We know there was warming during the Medieval and Roman periods and also during the Eocene geological Period when there was no industrial activity. Also warming and some cooling after the ‘Little ice Age’ that has continued until recently. During about 30 years after the Little Ice Age there was a sudden high warming rate that could not have been due to industrial activity. Skeptics also are aware of the celestial reasons why these warming and cooling periods occur.
So the skeptics are simply saying that because of these facts AGW is very likely not the main cause in the relatively small rise in temperature observed recently. Also all calculations show AGW can only be a very small fraction of the temp rise observed. Added to that is that while CO2 has increased temperatures have flat lined over that last 10 years or more. That is the skeptical evidence. So the question is where is the evidence that CO2 is the main reason for the 20th Century rise in temperature?

Exp says: February 25, 2012 at 4:38 am
… the sincere question, in 2 parts, is: What is the evidence that most convinces you of your position and what is the evidence and what would you have to see from the science to accept that AGW is something we should mitigate against?
So far, I have not found a “sceptic” willing to answer it. I wonder why?
30 years of no significant warming as evident in the surface temp record would pretty much be enough to change my mind.

In the work of many of the sceptics I name in my Primer, you will find answers to your two questions, over and over again. And over and over again I’ve tried directly answering questions framed in similar ways to your framing, and so have we all. Nearly every time we get the feeling that the questioners have fingers in their ears, with stock “answers” to all the “skeptics’ issues” provided by websites like Skeptical Science (a warmist propaganda site with sciencey lookalikes that only tell half the story). Clearly it isn’t enough that my Primer basically answers every single one of SkSci’s 150-odd articles. So we get a little disinclined to waste our energy with further individual attempts to answer.
You need a good spade and an open mind to see the mega-corruption of the science. For bullet-point answers to your questions, go here and then read the whole piece above it for backup evidence, the story of my U-turn from warmist to skeptic, and links to more backup evidence.
If this answers your question, drop me a line. It would be nice to know when I actually manage to get the message through.

Dodgy Geezer

“..Denialism is continuing to walk away from well established truth and pretending you are stepping towards it…”
You are aware that this statement is in direct conflict with the scientific method? It seems to be saying that there exist truths which are ‘well-established’ and must not be questioned. Did you really mean to say that? It sounds as if you are confusing science with religion….
“..My presumption is that Anthony doesn’t believe that there is enough evidence to support action on AGW. True? If this is the case, he must know what evidence he would require for the opposite to be true…”
You do seem to have a deep problem with the whole concept of science, and you fundamentally cannot grasp what is being talked about here. Science works by making conjectures and then proving them. It does NOT work by making conjectures and then asking people to DISPROVE them. If Anthony does not believe there is enough evidence to support action (What action? That alone is a hugely complex issue..) then there is NO requirement for him to prove a negative. The fact there there is not enough evidence is sufficient.
Do you not understand this? Or are you just trying to make a (poor) debating point? In either case you would be well advised to improve your knowledge of the scientific method before posting on this subject again…

Michael Palmer

Apart from many true but redundant ones, there are a few questionable quotes in this list. Examples:
1. “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence
.” –Christopher Hitchens
The only statements that can rightfully “be asserted without evidence” are simply the rules of logic, such as “If A and B, then A” or “If not (A and B), then not A or not B”. Impossible to dismiss. Einstein got this right:
“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
2. “It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”
–W.K. Clifford
The problem is that sufficient evidence is often simply unavailable. How about the RNA world or the big bang? Any witness accounts? Still, both reasonable hypotheses. This problem is better appreciated in the following two quotes:
“Not until the empirical results are exhausted need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation
.” –Edwin Hubble
“Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.” –
Charles Babbage

Steve Piet

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”
R. P. Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think, 1988
“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
September 23, 1800, letter by Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Jefferson Memorial
“The right to search for truth implies also a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”
Words inscribed on Einstein memorial in Washington D.C.
“In all of history, we have found just one cure for error – a partial antidote against making and repeating grand, foolish mistakes, a remedy against self-deception. That antidote is criticism.”
D. Brin, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?, 1998.
“The only known cure for error is criticism, but we hate it. The sign of a good ego is wanting to do better.” D. Brin, 12/14/96, Encinitas
All models are wrong, some models are useful.
George Box, 1979
For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
Albert Einstein
“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”
Albert Einstein, (attributed)
“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
A. C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1962
“If a scientific heresy is ignored or denounced by the general public, there is a chance it may be right. If a scientific heresy is emotionally supported by the general public, it is almost certainly wrong.”
I. Asimov, 1977
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
Carl Sagan
Some quotes already on the list, but with their citation….
“Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation … Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999),
“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School

Exp says:
February 25, 2012 at 4:38 am
30 years of no significant warming as evident in the surface temp record would pretty much be enough to change my mind.
I hope you will live that long (another 15 years). Don’t forget then, what you’ve said today.


The Keynes quotes are particularly ironic considering how his current proponents seem completely oblivious to the huge failures his theories produce as opposed to other, less fantasy based economic theories.

I’m not Anthony, but I’ll take a nibble of the Troll Bait…

Exp says:
February 25, 2012 at 4:38 am (Edit)
“Skepticism is the first step toward truth.”
Denialism is continuing to walk away from well established truth and pretending you are stepping towards it.

So what is it you are denying?
As for me, I’m not denying anything. I’m positively recognizing giant gaping holes in the AGW thesis, corrupted and lost data, flat out identity theft, character assassination as a standard tool of the “Warmers”, ‘attack the messenger’ (as you do here) as Standard Operating Procedure, intimidation of editors to block skeptical publications, repeated ‘appeal to authority’ but only the ‘authority’ that has been vetted as Politically Correct and published in journals under influence, repeated claims that it is “the warmest year ever” or “among the 10 warmest ever” when there is Ice on the canals of Venice and my tomatoes will not ripen from the cold (and a hundred and one other similar indicia of cooling), predictions of more hurricanes when we had less, predictions of massive drought, when we are now having floods, and dozens of other FAILED predictions. Perhaps that is what you are denying?
Don’t forget the SNOW in southern Brazil, the DEAD from COLD in Peru, the bitter cold in Russia, and, oh yeah, the thermometers in ALASKA that likely would have given a NEW ALLTIME RECORD LOW had they not died from said cold just one degree shy…
Perhaps those are the things you are denying?

My presumption is that Anthony doesn’t believe that there is enough evidence to support action on AGW. True?
If this is the case, he must know what evidence he would require for the opposite to be true.

Can’t speak for Anthony, but for me: Yes, the evidence to date is vastly insufficient.
That does not in any way mean I can say what IS required. Whatever some bright person can figure out that is not falsified and is not fraudulent becomes accepted. When the weight of such is sufficient to overcome the MOUNTAINS of tainted, corrupted, adjusted, and flat out FANTASY presently presented, then there is cause to temporarily accept the THEORY as plausible. One then continues to test, as with ALL scientific theories, for as long as time lasts. One may accept it for practical use, but it is never ever set in stone as “settled science” (an oxymoron if ever there was one…).
There are roughly 1200 thermometer records used in the last GIStemp version I ported (about a year+ ago). From that, 8000 grid locations are assigned “temperatures” (that are not temperatures, but fabricated numbers). That means that about 85% of the “temperatures” are complete and utter fabrications. From THAT a fiction of a Global Average Temperature is calculated. But it isn’t a temperature, and you cannot simply ‘average temperatures’ and make any statement about heat flow. Simply and completely a fantasy number.
When looking at individual long lived stations, the temperatures do not rise to any significant degree in comparison. When individual months data are looked at for the records in the GHCN data set, some months trend up, and some down for the same station (across all years). and adjacent stations can have opposing trends. The data are heavily “artifact laden”.
Basically, all the things that simply and clearly falsify the present junk that is claimed to be “proof” would need to be overcome. As the very integrity of the historical data has been compromised (or simply thrown out), that will be rather hard to do. Sadly, the zealots who have “cooked the data” with massive adjustments, cherry picking, and homogenizing have effectively prevented any way to use that data to prove AGW. So we’re going to need a new data set. That might take a century or two…(unless someone can find AUDITABLE RAW ORIGINAL data records).
So, as to “what is required” being “known”: That is a false conclusion. Someone might come up with a very elegant and completely unexpected proof tomorrow. It is impossible to forbid that that might happen. (But, for starters, as one example, those sea ports in Italy, Greece, Turkey etc that are now many kilometers from the shoreline and well above sea level would need to be a bit closer to the water…. and the arctic would need to be ICE FREE during summers for several years in a row, like they were in the past warmer parts of the Holocene, and the Antarctic would need to be net losing ice in stead of gaining it as present, and there would need to be LESS extent of frost and snow instead of more as there is at present, and for a long time too. Oh, and no “Raining Iguanas” in Florida from the frost…

At one point, he said he would accept the results of the BEST study but then backed away from this.

As did I. AND, like Anthony, I had that little world “IF” in my statement of acceptance. It was not a blind unthinking acceptance. It was an “IFF” they had good clean data, collected in an unbiased way and from a stable set of locations with good clean instrumental records. Instead we got PR Press Announcements of warming before the dataset was even released. When folks are already playing the propaganda game and the data isn’t even out yet, well, sorry, now you go back into the “How might these data have been cooked?” suspect bin until that audit is done.
Good unbiased science is not done by saying ‘These are my conclusions and I’m going to find these results’ before you are done.

So, the sincere question, in 2 parts, is: What is the evidence that most convinces you of your position and what is the evidence and what would you have to see from the science to accept that AGW is something we should mitigate against?

1) First off, I don’t need ‘convincing of my position’. The Null Hypothesis is “nothing unusual is happening”. That is to be accepted up and until there is sufficient Falsifiable but unfalsified evidence of an alternative theory. As the present codes, like GIStemp, are not even repeatable, “Falsifiable” has a long ways to come…
But, to humor the spirit of the question: Well, for starters, look out the windows. It reminds me most of the 1950’s. Same blustery winds. Same cooing trend. Same “loopy jet stream” (Rossby Waves). Same kind of storms. Near as I can tell, we had a 30 year ‘warm phase’ of the PDO, and now have returned to the start of a “30 year cold phase”. So one “Must Do” is change from the stupid notion that “climate” is the “30 year average of weather”. An average is used to HIDE THINGS. (That isn’t a pejorative. It is what the tool is used for. A 10 day average is used to hide the ‘noise’ of daily price moves in stocks so you can see the longer term trend. It’s a feature.) So a 30 year average is GUARANTEED to “tell lies” as we have a known 60 year periodicity cycling of the data. You need at least a 60 year window just to cover that one.
Now there’s also a known 179 ish year cycle, and even good evidence for 700 year minor cycles, then you hit the 1500 year Bond Event cycles. (Beyond that it even looks like there is a 5000 year lunar tidal cycle…). So you might want to just completely chuck out that whole averaging approach as it’s busted. Instead, look at cyclical highs and lows and plot trend lines laid on top of those peaks. When I do that, we’re headed downhill to colder from the Holocene Optimum to the Roman Optimum to the Medieval Optimum to the Modern Optimum.
So showing that the present CENTURY has been above those prior optimum peaks would be a good place to start. Now that might be a bit hard since the raw data has been lost, corrupted, and adjusted beyond use… So better hope that someone can find an archived original raw data set….
But we do have proxy data. Grape Growing records from England. Utze the Ice Man found UNDER a glacier that only formed AFTER he fell, some 5000 years ago (hey, just about on that same cycle…) and more. They all say “about the same are prior warm cycles but just a little cooler”. Oh, and trying to erase the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Optimum from history means you get to start over… See, we have historical documents from those periods saying it was very different then (both HOTTER and COLDER) so your premise of “temperatures are naturally stable” is a false one and needs to go…
2)Then, if somehow you manage to find some clean data and it shows warming, then you get to prove that a) CO2 is causal (and not, some computer video game isn’t enough. I’ve programmed for a living and know I can make a model say anything I want.) and B) Warming is BAD (when all historical evidence shows it to be good, which is why they are called “Optimums”) and C) People are causing the CO2 change, not just natural cycles (as it has been in the past many times) and finally D) The cost of the Mitigation is lower than the cost of just accepting and adapting. Oh, and that the mitigation would actually work… Get a sworn statement from China along with a couple of $Trillion in a Swiss Bank (in case they change there mind…), otherwise you will be ‘taken’ by China in a Carbon Swindle. About then we can talk about “doing something to mitigate”

So far, I have not found a “sceptic” willing to answer it. I wonder why?

Perhaps because it is a poorly worded StrawMan Hypothetical? It presupposes what can not be supposed (that all possible proofs are known to the answerer), then expects a laundry list / checklist of what those proofs are to find, and glosses over many of the important precursor requirements (like, oh, showing mitigation would work, or that “30 year average of weather” was anything other than a “Find 30 year cycles to be trends instead” filter…
Besides, most Skeptics have seen all the Troll Bait a dozen times and just don’t see the reason to bother. I would have not bothered either, but felt maybe I needed some practice…

30 years of no significant warming as evident in the surface temp record would pretty much be enough to change my mind.

Well, as the “30 year” window just finds the present cycle state, and as the PDO swap happened in about 1998, you will be “changed” in about 2028. Perhaps sooner if ‘flat’ really is enough and you don’t insist that a 10 year downtrend isn’t meaningful…
Or look at an interval of “top to top” from the 1930s to the 1990s and notice it’s dead flat. That’s a way to find ‘trend’ in cyclical series. And the tend is NOT warming.
Now, one other little problem: You can’t depend on the “surface temp record” as it isn’t a “record” any more. It is an adjusted, filtered, fabricated, spiced, blended fiction riddled with UHI artifacts and bad siting too. So, I suggest going over to NCDC and asking if they’ve continued to let the original paper record sheets rot and mold away. If they have, you get to wait about 60 years to gather new data… Otherwise it isn’t repeatable and it isn’t falsifiable, so it isn’t science… I suggest talking to the nice folks at CRU and NCDC and asking them why they screwed up the audit trail so much that ALL the subsequent work done with their cooked bits is now useless.
While you are at it, ask what the scientific basis is for averaging intensive intrinsic properties.
Oh, and ask what the scientific basis is for constantly changing the thermometers used in a calorimetry experiment while NOT using enthalpy data and mass data and specific heat data and…
Or we can just wait 60 years for the Satellite data to reach a long enough span to be useful…
As there is NO urgency since nothing is noticeably changed from 50 years ago when I was a kid and certainly not from those very hot years in the ’30s and ’40s my Dad told me about; there’s no problem at all collecting a new temperature series and then doing the science right (complete with those enthalpy and specific heat / density and mass flow – rain – figures…)
Yeah, you know, real honest science. The hard stuff.


I have seen much “alternative” medicine work, and work completely, where everything else has failed, and failed badly, for years.
To Lucy and others advocating “alternative” medicine therapies: Alternative medicine is called “alternative” because no one knows if or how it works. You need to use science to determine exactly how it works. I’m not dismissing alternative medicine out of hand, but if you can’t show the mechanism by which a treatment works, then you really don’t know anything. If you can scientifically demonstrate how an alternative technique works, then it will become part of the scientific medical knowledge base.
I’ve had too many experiences in my life where I believed I had found the cause of some problem (not medical) only to discover later, sometimes much later, the the real cause. At that time I was able assess how I went wrong, usually finding out I had fallen victim to correlation is causation.
Alternative medicine is not science and I think Anthony is correct to include it in his list of quotes of science and rationality.


Toto says:
February 25, 2012 at 1:04 am
“A prediction, in a field where prediction is not possible, is no more than a prejudice.” Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog saw.
A prediction that cannot be experimentally verified is USELESS! Oh, the RADIATIVE FORCING!


Here’s a quote to consider in the context of CAGW and the Religion of Environmentalism, those who practice it, and how they’d like to control your lives.
“Make no mistake about the character of mystics. To undercut your consciousness has always been their only purpose throughout the ages – and _power_, the power to rule you by force, has always been their only lust.” – Ayn Rand