In favor of epistemic trespassing #coronavirus

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Climate Etc.

Posted on April 14, 2020 by curryja

by Judith Curry

On the importance of expertise from other fields for COVD19 and climate change.

This post is motivated by a tweet from Steve McIntyre, with comment from Ken Rice:

Here is the link to Annan’s post Dumb and Dumber, its actually quite good.  The money quote:

“All these people exhorting amateurs to “stay in their lane” and not muddy the waters by providing analyses and articles about the COVID-19 pandemic would have an easier job of it if it wasn’t for the supposed experts churning out dross on an industrial scale.”

McIntyre responds:

Epistemic trespassing

Shortly after spotting this twitter exchange, I spotted a link to a new paper entitled (tweeted by Oxford Philosophy) entitled Epistemic Trespassing.  Excerpts:

“Epistemic trespassers are thinkers who have competence or expertise to make good judgments in one field, but move to another field where they lack competence—and pass judgment nevertheless. We should doubt that trespassers are reliable judges in fields where they are outsiders.”  In other words, stay in your lane.

“Trespassing is a significant problem in an age of expertise and punditry, but it’s not new. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates tells us he tracked down citizens in Athens who had reputations for being skilled. He met politicians, poets, and craftsmen and tested their mettle. As Socrates says, he ‘found those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient’ . Socrates diagnosed the problem: because these men had been so successful in their particular crafts, each one ‘thought himself very wise in most important pursuits, and this error of theirs overshadowed the wisdom they had’ . Puffed up by their achievements in one domain, the successful Athenians trespassed on matters about which they were ignorant.”

“First, trespassing is a widespread problem that crops up especially in the practice of interdisciplinary research, as opposed to what we might call ‘single-discipline’ research. Second, reflecting on trespassing should lead us to have greater intellectual modesty, in the sense that we will have good reason to be far less confident we have the right answers to many important questions.”

“Epistemic trespassing of the sort I’ve noted is easy to recognize. Experts drift over a highly-visible boundary line and into a domain where they lack either the relevant evidence or the skills to interpret the evidence well. But they keep talking nonetheless. Experts on a public stage are cast in the role of the ‘public intellectual’ or ‘celebrity academic’. They may find trespassing all but impossible to resist. Microphones are switched on, TV cameras zoom in, and ‘sound bites’ come forth, coaxed out of the commentators by journalists. So what do you have to say about philosophy, Neil deGrasse Tyson? And what about arguments for the existence of God, Professor Dawkins? I don’t think trespassing is exclusively a problem for scholars in the limelight, however, and one of my goals here is to explain why ordinary researchers often risk trespassing, too.”

“But first we must understand what the epistemological problem with trespassing is. There is not only one problem. Consider three types of problematic trespassing cases, where two different fields share a particular question:

  1. (a)  Experts in one field lack another field’s evidence and skills;
  2. (b)  Experts in one field lack evidence from another field but have its skills;
  3. (c)  Experts in one field have evidence from another field but lack its skills.

“I will examine three strategies to justify acts of trespassing and thereby preserve rational confidence in trespassers’ answers to hybridized questions. Again, we are assuming some trespassers are experts in one field but encroach on another field.

  • (D1) I am trespassing on another field, but that field does not feature any relevant evidence or skills that bear on my view about p;
  • (D2) I am trespassing on another field, but my own field’s evidence conclusively establishes that p is true;
  • (D3) I am trespassing on another field, but my own field’s skills successfully ‘transfer’ to the other field.”

“I suspect we must trespass to answer most important questions. Perhaps this means we should never trespass alone. Instead, we must rely on the expertise of others. What we need, to extend the trespassing metaphor, is an ‘easement’ or ‘right of way’ for travel beyond our fields’ boundaries. The right of safe passage could be secured by our collaboration with cross-field experts. Imagine your colleague is a representative source of evidence, skills, and potential criticism from another field. Even if you don’t have direct knowledge of that field, if your colleague tests out your answer to a hybridized question and tells you it sounds right to her, then your view is appar- ently more reasonable than it would have been otherwise. Trespassers may gain reasonable beliefs by engaging in certain kinds of discussion with cross-field colleagues.”

While this paper raises some interesting issues, its main goal seems to be protecting the turf of academic subfields.

COVID19 and climate change

Complex issues such as COVID19 and climate change, with massive policy implications, introduce a whole host of additional issues related to epistemic trespassing.  I’ve written many blog posts on expertise [link].

Here is a pet peeve of mine:  many academics who label themselves as ‘climate scientists’, even though their degrees might be in economics, biology, whatever, have no compunction about speaking publicly, and responding to reporters’ queries, on climate topics well outside their expertise.  They use their status as ‘climate scientist’ to expound on aspects of climate science, economics, policy, whatever, that they know next to nothing about.

The flip side of this coin is the dismissal by academics of the likes of Steve McIntyre, who has brought much needed expertise in statistics and data probity to the field of paleoclimate.

Moving on to COVID19, the problems with COVID19 projections were summarized in a number of posts in the most recent CoV Discussion Thread:

  • Don’t believe the COVID models – that’s not what they’ for [link]
  • Mathematical models to characterize early epidemic growth: A review. [link]
  • On the predictability of infectious disease outbreaks [link]
  • Dramatic reduction in COVID disaster projections [link]
  • America’s most influential COV model just revised its estimates downward – but not all models agree [link]
  • How can COVID models get it so wrong? [link]

James Annan has another good blog post: Model calibration, nowcasting and operational prediction of the COVID19 pandemic

“Turns out that calibrating a simple model with observational data is much the same whether it’s paleoclimate or epidemics. The maths and the methods are much the same. In fact this one is a particularly easy one as the model is embarrassingly linear (once you take the logarithm of the time series).”

“The basic concept is to use the model to invert the time series of reported deaths back through the time series of underlying infections in order to discover the model parameters such as the famous reproductive rate R. It’s actually rather simple and I am still bemused by the fact that none of the experts (in the UK at least) are doing this. I mean what on earth are mathematical epidemiologists actually for, if not this sort of thing? They should have been all over this like a rash. The exponential trend in the data is a key diagnostic of the epidemic and the experts didn’t even bother with the most elementary calibration of this in their predictions that our entire policy is based on. It’s absolutely nuts. It’s as if someone ran a simulation with a climate model and presented the prediction without any basic check on whether it reproduced the recent warming. You’d get laughed out of the room if you tried that at any conference I was attending. By me if no-one else (no, really, I wouldn’t be the only one).”

While I haven’t dug into COVID models at all, with regards to model calibration and nowcasting my experience in weather forecasting is even more relevant here than climate modeling.  For operational weather prediction (say for hurricanes), there are several components to calibration of the forecasts.  You can calibrate the model inputs and/or the model outputs.  You can calibrate the model based on historical forecasts for previous epidemics (compared with observations). You can also calibrate the model based on recent error statistics (in model inputs and/or outputs).  The experiences/outcomes of each country impacted by COVID provides data to be used in calibration.

It appears that the weather/climate community has much to offer in terms of COVID modeling.  Fortunately, weather and climate scientists haven’t been ‘staying in their lane,’ we’ve seen a number of COVID analyses from this community (including a few at Climate Etc.

Postnormal pandemics

The postnormal science group (Funtowicz, Ravetz, van der Sluijs et al.) have written an article PostNormal Pandemics.

“Despite the truly historic mobilization of science, our knowledge in crucial areas is still swamped by ignorance, especially on the sources of the virus but also on its progress and future outcomes. The expertise employed in COVID-19 policy advice builds on speculative assumptions on the virus itself, and how far it’s possible to control and predict how people behave.

Known unknowns include the real prevalence of the virus in the population; the role of asymptomatic cases in the rapid spread of the virus; the degree to which humans develop immunity; the dominant exposure pathways; the disease’s seasonal behaviour; the time to deliver global availability of an effective vaccine or cure; and the nonlinear response of individuals and collectives to the social distancing interventions in the complex system of communities interconnected across multiple scales, with many tipping points, and hysteresis loops (implying that society may not be able to rebound to the state it was in before the coronavirus interventions took place). These deep uncertainties make quantitative predictions speculative and unreliable.

Instead, following a pattern well known to PNS practitioners, predictions which purportedly “jarred the U.S. and the U.K. to action” can only be obtained by mathematical models that produce crisp numbers, even though these numbers have been obtained at the cost of artificially compressing the associated uncertainty. “There is no number-answer to your question,” explodes an angry medical expert to the politician trying to force a number out of him.

It would be much more effective to run our societies under the assumption that our resources should not be allocated according to a strategy of prediction and control.

More data (even ‘reliable data’) and better predictive models cannot resolve the ‘distribution of sacrifice’ which involves, among other things, the arbitration of dilemmas that appear at every scale. This cannot be delivered by artificial intelligence, algorithms and models alone. We need to pursue an adaptability based on preserving diversity and flexible management.”

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April 15, 2020 6:14 am

I’m not sure.

Greta Thunberg.

Area of expertise – Truanting.
Area of trespass – Climate Change.

Reply to  Charlie
April 15, 2020 7:09 am

I’ll go one better…


Area of expertise – miniature replicas of ships, buildings, cartoon characters.
Area of trespass – global warming; climate change; death numbers from Wuhan virus.

Curious George
Reply to  rickk
April 15, 2020 7:45 am

To err is human, but to make a real mess you need a computer.

Reply to  rickk
April 15, 2020 7:52 am

Goodness sake, do you have a clue? If not mathematical models of these things, what? Wishful thinking? Nostradamus? I’m not saying any particular models is right, but I am saying there’s no other way to make predictions.

And just because the word ‘model’ has these two senses doesn’t mean one of the senses is invalid, any more than the fact that ‘dog’ has a sense referring to an animal, and a sense referring to a latch on a ship’s door or hatch, means that one of these senses is invalid.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  mcswell
April 15, 2020 8:37 am

What’s the saying? Paraphrasing: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

Gregory Woods
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
April 15, 2020 9:09 am

All models are wrong, but some models are wronger than others….

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
April 15, 2020 11:28 am


I think the “stay in your lane” presentation is at risk of redefining hubris.

“While this paper raises some interesting issues, its main goal seems to be protecting the turf of academic subfields.”

Yes, that much is obvious, because there is a social contract in the sciences that sates my expertise is so unique no others may comment upon it provided I bow to the same angle. To each his own.

When others point out errors, I claim special understanding that overcomes what they think are errors. It is a form of polytheistic gnosticism determining truth by acclamation.

It also confuses schooling with education, paper with skills, and specialists with polymaths.

Reply to  mcswell
April 15, 2020 8:58 am

My grandfather used to say, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Had we done that, the world might not now be approaching a global recession.

Just sayin’.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Goldrider
April 15, 2020 10:32 am

There’s wisdom in waiting for the truth to reveal itself over time. Then there’s foot-dragging and incompetence. For the amount of money U.S. invested in WHO, you’d think they would be able to get some eyes on the scene of a disease outbreak in a week or two. The first reported case of the virus was November 18. It took WHO “experts” until January 20 to get to the site according to their own timeline.—covid-19

Two months is a lot of waiting.

Reply to  Goldrider
April 15, 2020 5:06 pm

“There’s wisdom in waiting for the truth to reveal itself over time. ”
Which pretty good for an individual

“Then there’s foot-dragging and incompetence.”

That is any government or any group of people.
And particularly when talking about the vast US government of local, state, federal. AND the system of checks and balances.
Waiting at all, is not the option- and why the US has a President.
Luckily it’s said that Trump is a germophobe, which was particularly useful feature.
That he doesn’t trust China {but why, should anyone} another plus.
But I don’t think Trump even fully understood the unreliability of WHO, or Trump didn’t in first sniff, of something possibly amiss with China, and knowing WHO could be mass murderers, could have caused Trump to shutdown air travel a week ahead of when he did {which when he actually did, caused people to claim he a racist which included the WHO- and WHO rather being relieved, that there was an adult making the obvious choice, acted as child with tantrum}.

D. Boss
Reply to  Goldrider
April 16, 2020 5:31 am

Crispin in Waterloo writes: “I think the “stay in your lane” presentation is at risk of redefining hubris.”

Not just hubris, but in fact “specialization” is a means to keep the masses – well dumb! Wisdom and the resulting power comes from being a generalist.

Those in power recognized this eons ago, and declared or promoted the idea we should all specialize. And because all these sub groups of short and narrow focus do not have a decent grasp of either the whole, or other critical factors – they can never “upset the apple cart” of a faulty or flawed system or process. (and hence never overthrow the leaders who promoted this over specialization)

Only the generalist with wide and deep understanding of many or all disciplines can truly be wise.

read this essay on the topic:

Fuller’s quote:
“We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable. Consequently, society expects all earnestly responsible communication to be crisply brief. Advancing science has now discovered that all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability. Thus the specialist’s brief for pinpointing brevity is dubious. In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which in turn leads to war.”

Fuller’s point is without challenge in the fact that we know that overspecialization of a species in the genetic sense, leads to extinction. The same applies to intellectual “knowledge”!

Reply to  rickk
April 15, 2020 3:12 pm

Climate models are inaccurate because there is no accurate climate physics model as their foundation.

Even less is known about covid19.

So the covid19 models are just personal opinions.

No science background is needed to report what has happened, and what questions need to be answered.

So-called experts are too reluctant to say “l don’t know”.

Chris Riley
Reply to  Richard Greene
April 15, 2020 9:30 pm

If we define the function epidemiologist as providing the information that minimizes the cost of a given epidemic, we should not ecpect, or even tolerate intellectual honesty from epidemiologists.

A plausible (to the general public) model that overstates the danger the society is facing will cause individuals to “invest” in more inoculation avoidance than would be the case if the public was told the truth. The extra caution causes a drop on R0.

The goal here is not accuracy. The goal is getting to R0<1

Reply to  Charlie
April 15, 2020 7:38 am

The penalty of refusing epistemic trespassing, is to be trapped in the dogmatic orthodoxy of the existing elite. Do not imagine that the elite is a meritocracy.

The very term of trespass one of territorial defence not open scientific discourse.

This is may patch , stay out !

Andy Espersen
Reply to  Greg
April 15, 2020 10:35 am

“The flip side of this coin is the dismissal by academics of the likes of Steve McIntyre, who has brought much needed expertise in statistics and data probity to the field of paleoclimate.”

Exactly. And that is an all-important “flip side”. Epistemic trespassing is really just each one of chipping in with opinions and thoughts about the myriad of things happening in our human world. I wish people were all alive and open to wondering about everything – rather than drowsily and animal-like accepting life and its happenings as just what has to happen. And meekly accepting so-called experts’ words for everything.

The value or otherwise of your many varying opinions should be judged by their content : Do they make sense? Does it seem you are right? Is it proven? In previous times logic and philosophy were studies in their own right. There’s a case for again making these mandatory subjects at schools and universities – I think they used to be naturally taught everywhere (??).

Opinions by celebrities are of interest only because they are uttered by them – only fools will believe them because of that. But alas – many of us are fools.

Reply to  Charlie
April 15, 2020 8:33 am


Areas of expertise: appeasement, graft, propaganda
Areas of trespass: climate science, economics, politics, free markets

Reply to  co2isnotevil
April 15, 2020 10:45 am

They use “sexual abuse” as the polite form of rape. UN Peacekeeping forces give ISIS a run for their money when it comes to rape.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  Scissor
April 15, 2020 3:23 pm

Both are equal incapable of holding their ground under fire. A lot of what the UN peace keeping force has done in the past amounts to genocide. If you create a “safe” zone and when thousands flow into it, fleeing when the killer show up is not morally acceptable option. But for the UN there “safe” zones a how the UN allows the bad guys to not have to chase everyone down, No just let them collect into the safe zone when time is right move in for the kill but make sure you give the UN time to bug out, that way you save amino for the slaughter.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Charlie
April 15, 2020 8:13 pm

And that was the last anyone ever saw of Charlie.

A still warm pile of ashes was found on his front porch, but police deny this, as well as a 30m tall Swedish girl with glowing eyes and pig tails, have anything to do with his disappearance.

A sad day and a sad mystery.

Press F to pay respects.

Doug Huffman
April 15, 2020 6:16 am

Axiom: All men are created equal. Corollary: All men’s opinions are equal.

All men are created equal, naked, squalling, and stupid. After that it’s dog-eat-dog competition (paean to Ayn Rand), and the Devil has taken the hindermost and marked them as His own.

I note in the paper Epistemic Trespassing the call out of particular culpable trespassers of mine, Dawkins and Tyson. I didn’t seen David Suzuki, Michio Kacu or Carl Sagan, but they belong.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
April 15, 2020 7:16 am

It’s complicated.

Axiom: All men are created equal. Corollary: All men’s opinions are equal.

In some domains that’s true. After decades of studying expert predictions, Philip Tetlock proved, to the extent that nobody has taken him down, that expert predictions about political events, the stock market, the economy, etc., are no more accurate than those that would be generated by a dart-throwing monkey. link

The psychiatrist’s secretary is often better at predicting what a patient will do than the psychiatrist is.

On the other hand, although I have expertise in electronics, I will always defer to my buddy the control system expert on matters pertaining to control systems.

So, there are two kinds of experts. One type is called an expert because of their education. The other is called an expert because of their demonstrated performance. The problem is that they are both called experts.

Then there are the experts in the mushy middle. Scientists may have taken a statistics course and they may have covered more statistics in their research methods course but scientific papers are rife with statistical faux pas. The result is that we see Monckton’s control systems expert debunking Hansen’s kindergarten feedback analysis and M&M debunking Mann’s treemometers.

When folks within a silo use stuff from outside the silo it’s perfectly justified for someone from a different silo to point out that they’re doing it wrong.

On the other hand, when some uneducated bozo criticizes an economist, she might actually be right. It’s unhelpful though. The economist might be able to provide you with some insight whereas a dart-throwing chimp never will. Just don’t bet the farm based on the economist’s predictions.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
April 15, 2020 7:29 am

and the Devil has taken the hindermost and marked them as His own.

I doubt the devil is that foolish. Far better do a Faustian deal with those at the top.

Interesting to see snippet of Dr Faux-cri pretending the only uncertainty preventing him from answering was not knowing how we would respond.

Like climate it is a complex non linear system of which we have little understanding. Again we are expecting to be able to extrapolate way outside the domain of the calibrations data. With exponentials this just does not work.

Here’s my personal trespass and I see Italy settling to a weekly oscillation around constant new cases in about a week. That is without the effects of limited relaxation which will hit in about 10 days time.

comment image

the mathematical curve is an approximate fix of a simplistic model to give an idea of what unperturbed epidemics look like. That is for comparison of form and to show the break point 10 days after shutdown. so don’t start saying I’m extrapolating an exponential 😉

I am suggesting a short term extrapolation of the trend towards the line of constant new cases ( I;m not saying it will asymptote there, it will cross it even under continued shutdown, nowhere in the West has hit peak COVID, we simply traded for a smaller , later peak). We can later look for evidence of any increase due to relaxing confinement knowing the system has a delay of about 10 days.

Grant A. Brown
Reply to  Doug Huffman
April 15, 2020 7:33 am

Dawkins is NOT “trespassing” when he discusses the god hypothesis. Religious dogma is not a discipline with evidence and special skills upon which trespass is even possible. Bad example.

Reply to  Grant A. Brown
April 15, 2020 10:31 am

Wow, way to trespass.

Reply to  Richmond
April 15, 2020 12:22 pm

You gotta forgive them though.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Grant A. Brown
April 15, 2020 12:54 pm

Grant A.

Dawkins doesn’t get to define the God hypothesis, though he is welcome to define his own god hypothesis. As is plainly evident from his writings, his materialistic interpretation of the world is self-trapping. Once blind to to the higher nature of the human existence, he erects and knocks down straw gods. So what?

Was he an expert in religious study, which he is not, he might have standing to comment upon it. Religious dogma is not religion, and doesn’t come close to Revelation. He thinks they are the same thing because he defines them as such. The reason he thinks they are, is because he is trespassing in terra ignotum.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 15, 2020 3:55 pm

Denying the existence of some sort of supreme being that controls (somehow) how the world works is not the same as denying that humans can have very meaningful experiences, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups. Marganita Lasky wrote a book (Ecstasy) about peak experiences back in the 70’s. The point she makes is that these experiences have deep meaning and significance for a person’s life, independent of whether they were interpreted as religious or not.

The ‘god botherers’ and a lot of others are looking for these experiences – we all are and it is part of what makes us human. Another human characteristic is to interpret such experiences within the framework of culture. All this does not need a GOD, and claiming there is more to religion than ‘dogma’ does not make a God nescessary.

Reply to  Grant A. Brown
April 15, 2020 5:25 pm

So why do we have philosophy departments?

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Doug Huffman
April 15, 2020 8:45 am

Please excuse my manners while I make a correction to your comment.

Dog-eat-dog, meh…happens every day.
Anti-dog-eat-dog, that’s a big idea!

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Citizen Smith
April 15, 2020 8:07 pm

Dog eat dog is not big deal.

Dogs and cats living together? PANIC!

Reply to  Doug Huffman
April 15, 2020 10:24 am


April 15, 2020 6:21 am

The so called experts have been wrong.

First Fauci was wrong to assume a zoonotic virus has low r0

Second the models vastly overstated deaths, likely because they mis judged the number of those infected that had no symptoms so were not tested.

Reply to  Stevek
April 15, 2020 8:52 am

OTOH, the reported statistics probably underestimate deaths, because people who die at home before they could get to a hospital are not counted. For example, there is statistical evidence per Ren’s comment below that actual deaths in the UK and Italy may be significantly more than the reported totals. Probably true in the US as well. The virus was active in the US long before testing began, so there were probably numerous deaths from it that went unrecorded in December-February.

The part of the article dealing with the UK shows known Covid-19 deaths, total current deaths, and historical total current deaths.

You can’t compare cases against deaths, but it’s probably fair to compare deaths vs. hospitalizations, both of which are reasonably well tracked, and the hospitalization rate can be estimated from the Diamond Princess data and the early Chinese data, to the extent it can be trusted.

Chris Riley
Reply to  DiogenesNJ
April 15, 2020 8:50 pm

“OTOH, the reported statistics probably underestimate deaths,”

Covid 19 does not kill the otherwise immortal. The virus causes death to occur earlier than it otherwise would have. No rational accounting of the harm done by a premature death would treat the premature death of an infant and the premature death of one of that infant’s great grandparents as equivalently tragic events. Would our society be more or less disturbed by this pandemic if the median age of the deaths were seven months instead of seventy years?

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Chris Riley
April 16, 2020 1:48 am

I don’t think that the issue is entirely one of time. I would be less surprised by the death of a severely ill infant with co-morbidities than I would be about the death of a healthy grandparent.

Your point should be that the elderly are expecting to die by reason of general degeneration of body function, and hence someone with a poor life prognosis might be expected to die from a minor ailment.

But your point about infants raises an interesting question. If the median mortality age were indeed seven months, this would be a disease entirely confined to the very young. In this case we would surely apply maximum levels of protection to maternity and infant wards. But would we lock the whole of society down? Even if adults could act as asymptomatic carriers of the disease?

I doubt it….

Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 6:38 am

First person to come to mind: Paul Krugman

Tropical Lutefisk
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 6:54 am

Does he have an area of expertise? I see him comment extensively on economic issues, but given his track record I assume this is not his forte. It must be something else.

Reply to  Tropical Lutefisk
April 15, 2020 8:14 am

Krugman is popular with the Guardian and the NYT only because he tells them what they want to hear. He has negative expertise in economics.

tsk tsk
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 6:55 am

He would have had to have some expertise in the first place. (Yes, yes, /sarc)

Paul R Johnson
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 7:14 am

Al Gore, although it’s hard to say he’s trespassing into another field of expertise since he had none to begin with.

Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 7:17 am

Thomas Friedman

Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 7:43 am

Krugman is a world-class trade economist. And trade economics is an area where vast numbers of lay people simply fail to understand the basics, and so get it completely wrong.

shortus cynicus
Reply to  Phoenix44
April 17, 2020 2:39 am

He gets demolished every week on

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 15, 2020 8:04 pm

I thought of all those vocal Hollywood types who played someone who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

tsk tsk
April 15, 2020 6:59 am

Oddly enough these same “experts” have no qualms with all of the prognostications of amateurs like St. Greta and Leonardo the Lesser or some bouncyhitball player.

April 15, 2020 7:03 am

See: Dunning-Kruger

Nick Schroeder
April 15, 2020 7:05 am

Earlier this afternoon I heard or saw that New York had passed 10,000 CoVid-19 deaths.
SAY WHAT!!!????
That must be close to third of all of them! All by its sorry self!! Eh, yep, 33.5%.
CoVid-19 is not only NOT a “global” pandemic it is NOT a national problem!!
So, let’s go look.
The top ten states with the most cases constitute 75.7% of the total cases.
The top ten states with the most deaths constitute 81.1% of total deaths.
Ten states have mortality rates in excess of 4.5%, deaths/cases.
Once again, this is NOT a national problem.
It’s a problem for ten states.
Considering which ones those are it is not exactly a surprise.
Wonder why the lying, fact free, fake news MSM propaganda machine does not consider this worth mention.

Jeffery P
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 15, 2020 7:37 am

You ever wonder why we don’t lockdown New York City and other hot spots and let the rest of the country carry on? This would not be the same as return to before, prudent measures must still be observed,

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 15, 2020 7:42 am

Over a third of those 10K NYC cases were simply made up.

The city has added more than 3,700 additional people who were presumed to have died of the coronavirus but had never tested positive.

N.Y.C. Death Toll Soars Past 10,000 in Revised Virus Count

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  icisil
April 15, 2020 8:34 am

That’s very strange. There is a NYTimes article this morning about South Dakota’s cases soaring out of control because their governor refuses to issue a shutdown of their economy. They’re at 988 cases, 261 recoveries, and 6 deaths – 0.1% of population with and 43:1 recovery to death ratio so far. NYC is at 202,208 cases, 17,089 recoveries, and 10,834 deaths – 2.4% of population with and 1.6:1 recovery to death ratio.

The increased percent of population with makes sense in more densely populated areas, but how can one explain the staggeringly lower recovery to death ratio? I have a feeling you’re right, heart attacks and strokes are now being recorded as very acute cases of Covid.

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
April 15, 2020 9:50 am

Suppose someone that doesn’t have covid19 has heart attack goes to hospital and is in ICU.

Now it is well known often these patients die even if they survive for days in ICU. They might die week or two later, or month later while still in ICU.

Now suppose the patient catches covid while in hospital. Then dies few days later. We simply don’t know cause of death then. Could be the initial heart attack or could be the disease. To attribute death to covid would be incorrect.

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
April 15, 2020 10:38 am

Last week I listened to a Dr. complaining about the CDC’s guidelines on who should be listed as death by COVID-19. According to the Dr. if someone tests positive or is suspected of having COVID-19 by their symptoms then they are to put on the death certificate that they died of COVID-19 no matter what the actual cause of death. He gave an example of a person is suspected of having COVID-19, isn’t paying attention and steps in front of a bus and is killed. He would be required to put down on the death certificate that cause of death is COVID-19.

That’s more than inflating the numbers if you ask me.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  Robert W. Turner
April 15, 2020 3:36 pm

Good numbers add in the “new” out break is primary center around a single plant than has 3700 employees. Those 3700 are about .4% of South Dakota population add in those 3700 will interact with at least four or more people through out their day. So yes that plant will have a fairly large effect on their numbers. Now such a plant in New York would be small plant for that state and its population.

Reply to  icisil
April 15, 2020 7:54 pm

Bet they did NOT test them for the other deadly strains of flu the most people took shot for also. The annul flu is also killing people, or at least the CDC said it would back in october to assure you got the vaccination.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 15, 2020 12:13 pm

And which of those states have major urban centers with highly concentrated population centers and extensive use of mass transit…which is what the Progressive urban planners have in mind for all of us…?
Look at California (huge LA population, but sprawling relatively low density housing…and the car is King) versus New York (huge NYC and nearby urban population with much higher density in multi-story stacks sharing elevators, escalators and stairwells, trains, buses, subways…all kinds of enclosed breathing space and surfaces to spread contagion…)….and which have Progressive city and/or state leadership that were advocating open borders and allowing large street-camping populations with little or no sanitation, but little mass transit and a lot more sunshine and warmer weather (LA, SF, San Diego). They are(at least for now) still doing significantly better than the NYC megalopolis.

Al Miller
April 15, 2020 7:13 am

The list of unqualified persons spouting off about “climate” is too long to show here. But talk about a bunch of buffoons- right up there with “don’t listen to fake news” (translation- only listen to me or my buddies). Thanks, but the endless babble from people with just enough knowledge to be dangerous who are telling us what next centuries weather will look like is enough to make me barf.

April 15, 2020 7:13 am

To compare statistics, you need to compare the number of deaths due to respiratory failure in the first quarter of 2020 with previous years in individual countries. Only such statistics can be reliable.

Reply to  ren
April 15, 2020 7:49 am

But that’s not remotely reliable. Death certificates in most Western countries are totally accurate. They represent underlying biases as much as anything. Time and again we here that “this disease” is the biggest killer in the West, but by far the biggest killer is old age. Yes, there’s a final disease that tips the scales, but only because we are old and lots of stuff is not working very well anymore.

That is the massive problem with COVID. Many old people die because of an infection every year, because an infection tips them over the edge. But it could be anything, and if it’s not COVID, it will be flu or a cold or an unknown virus that we never look for because its the old dying.

The simple question with COVID is: are people under 65 dying? No, hardly at all.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  Phoenix44
April 15, 2020 8:40 am

Sort of like blaming all earthquakes anywhere remotely close to disposal wells on the wells themselves. Ignore the violation of the 1st Law of thermodynamics, and you might believe that disposal of water causes earthquakes. But if don’t ignore the fact that even the smallest detectable earthquakes release orders of magnitude more energy than that added by water disposal, and you might begin to realize that the actual underlying cause is the natural stresses and strains in the crust.

Just like Covid deaths, the real cause of death 99.9% of the time is that the virus happened to infect someone that already had health complications.

HD Hoese
April 15, 2020 7:16 am

“I suspect we must trespass to answer most important questions. ” Any time you try a question where there does not seem to be an answer you must trespass. Geologists trespassed into biology because it was so important to stratigraphy and vice-versa. Marine laboratories had as an idealistic concept, often ruined by funding and other events, to have representatives from chemistry, physics, biology, and geology. The last two are very dependent on the first two, and many biologists I know trespass, at least in their paper’s conclusions without homework, even into economics, history, politics, and so on. This may explain some of the problems with “acidification” and what is going on in scientific organizations.

The important operation is homework. That requires when looking into new areas and accepting that you are likely to be burned, and admit it when you are wrong, just like with your own expertise. If you look into the pyramid of academic departments, the bottom is composed of specialties beyond reason. And the top is bloated so much it weighs down on the bottom.

The example was given with biochemistry and molecular biology. Ecology and physiology was an older and necessary trespass. Lots of examples of trespassing by biologists into statistics, some areas almost required.

April 15, 2020 7:24 am

Opinions are like anal orifices, everyone has one.

Reply to  JimG1
April 15, 2020 7:46 am

Corallary: Some people are one.

April 15, 2020 7:25 am

Reprise – epidemiology is technically “outside my lane”, but the only relevant question is:
“Was my Covid-19 anti-lockdown assessment of ~mid-March correct or not?”
Here in Alberta, it’s looking accurate, and I suggest that it is also correct in most other locations in the world.
The Covid-19 deaths/infections ratio was initially over-estimated by the “experts”, causing the total lockdown and resulting economic disaster.

Regarding expertise, I suggest the best objective measure of one’s competence is one’s predictive track record, and the predictive track record of the global warming alarmists has been consistently wrong for the past ~40 years – every one of their very-scary predictions of runaway global warming and climate catastrophe has FILED TO HAPPEN. Nobody should believe the warmists – about anything

Furthermore, I suggest that “No rational person could be this stupid for this long” – the warmists have a covert agenda. The Green New Deal socialist ravings of the US Democratic Party now make that agenda obvious – it is the end of our Western economic model, to be replaced by the proven failures of the socialist dictatorships. The warmists are utterly incompetent climate scientists – but they are very good at inciting false public hysteria to promote their extremist political objectives – we call that treason.

Back in 2002, we wrote that runaway global warming was a false crisis, and green energy was not green and produced little useful (dispatchable) energy – both those statements are correct-to-date. We also predicted that global cooling would start by 2020-2030, and crop planting has been one-month late across the Great Plains of North America for the past two years, and there was a huge crop failure last year.

Based on my strong predictive track record to date, I’m not outside my lane – I’m keeping it between the lines. 🙂

Regards, Allan

Here in Alberta, the Covid-19 lock-down has resulted a debacle.

Most of our deaths are in nursing homes – our policy seems to be “Lockdown the low-risk majority but fail to adequately protect the most vulnerable.”

Doctors are apparently reluctant to prescribe Chloroquine because of inadequate formal clinical tests, but actual clinical experience elsewhere suggests a high degree of success. “Let’s wait until we get formal studies!”

The global data for Covid-19 suggests that deaths/infections will total 0.5% or less – not that scary – but much higher and clearly dangerous for the high-risk group – those over-65 or with serious existing health problems.

“Elective” surgeries were cancelled about mid-March, in order to make space available for the “tsunami” of Covid-19 cases that never happened. Operating rooms are empty and medical facilities and medical teams are severely underutilized. The backlog of surgeries will only be cleared with extraordinary effort by medical teams, and the cooperation of patients who die awaiting surgery – patients who were too impatient…

This may look like 20:20 hindsight, but I called it this way in ~mid-March.

Regards, Allan

“The UK government’s scientific advisers believe that the chances of dying from a coronavirus infection are between 0.5% and 1%.”

I believe this Covid-19 estimated mortality range “between 0.5% and 1%” (deaths/infections) is ~correct for a typical country’s population distribution , and my hunch is “closer to 0.5%” – that is not very scary except if you are in the “high risk” group – over 65 years of age or otherwise high-risk (with other medical problems) – Covid-19 deaths are heavily concentrated in the high-risk group.

I still think my ~mid-March assessment of this situation was the correct one:
“Isolate people over sixty-five and those with poor immune systems and return to business-as-usual for people under sixty-five.
This will allow “herd immunity” to develop much sooner and older people will thus be more protected AND THE ECONOMY WON’T CRASH.
If tests prove positive, use chloroquine and remdesivir or other cheap available drugs ASAP as appropriate.”

With rare exceptions, we have not seen the “tsunami of cases overwhelm our medical systems”, and we have trashed our economies and severely harmed hundreds of millions worldwide who live from paycheck to paycheck. Considering the pro’s and con’s, the full lockdown was a bad call.

Regards, Allan
[excerpt- posted 21Mar2020]

This full-lockdown scenario is especially hurting service sector businesses and their minimum-wage employees – young people are telling me they are “financially under the bus”. The young are being destroyed to protect us over-65’s. A far better solution is to get them back to work and let us oldies keep our distance, and get “herd immunity” established ASAP – in months not years. Then we will all be safe again.

Michael in Dublin
April 15, 2020 8:50 am

I suggest the best objective measure of one’s competence is one’s predictive track record

That is why we should have so much confidence in the WHO and all the medical experts and politicians that fawningly follow the organization.

Allan, you will understand but for the “none so blind” /sarc

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 15, 2020 4:38 pm

One large hospital in Calgary had a grand total of TWO Covid-19 patients today.

So much for the “tsunami of cases”.

Pat from kerbob
April 15, 2020 9:48 pm

Since the doctors and nurses are presently negotiating new contracts, that qualifies as a tsunami

April 15, 2020 9:26 am


April 15, 2020 7:31 am

The level of galactic radiation in Oulu is rising and is already at the same level as in 2009.
comment image

Jeffery P
April 15, 2020 7:35 am

But surely we can create models that let us adjust the variables and review the outcomes. Are their too many variables to allow this? Is it beyond the skill of the modelers?

Even if we create models like above, we have to ask how accurately are the results? Are the models useful?

April 15, 2020 7:40 am

True in 2014, true in 2020…a computer model is not the same as the real thing (“This is not a pipe”):

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Charles Battig
April 15, 2020 9:56 am

Spoon. The quote from the Matrix is, “This is not a spoon.”

Reply to  Paul Penrose
April 15, 2020 10:48 am

Actually it’s “there is no spoon”

April 15, 2020 7:44 am

Courts will usually only list to an ‘expert’ in their given field. Problem is, that expert is usually arguing as a paid shrill for a cause for either side, to a judge that also usually has some preconceived bias, as we all do especially if it is only as a right/left issue. I have had to hire such experts, usually for a court issue, and they could honestly argue either side of the case until the cows come home. Such is the purpose of learning to debate and sometimes practicing arguing both sides of an issue.

An expert can usually argue any position nine ways to Sunday, depending on who/what is paying the best or provides for the best career advancement. Sometimes I prefer the answer from an intelligent non expert in that field, if only to get a non biased opinion since it appears all experts become biased to some degree, usually to group think and peer pressure from academia/journalism as we see in the climate fields.

J Mac
Reply to  Earthling2
April 15, 2020 9:27 am

You tar the host of technical ‘experts’ that stand between you and defective materials and products. You castigate as ‘paid shrills’ (sic) those who keep you and yours safe. I have been subpoenaed and served as a ‘technical expert’ in a federal trial of a material supplier, because I had identified and unarguably documented improperly processed metals with variable and intermittently unacceptable properties, preventing them from being used to fabricate a variety of commercial aerospace and military flight hardware.

I am neither a ‘paid shrill’ nor a paid shill. I just did the right thing at the right time, to protect people like you. Your Welcome!

Reply to  J Mac
April 15, 2020 10:54 am

I suppose then that you were an expert witness against Roundup? Because that was how we wound up with that decision. Talk about ‘expert’ witnesses. Not that there isn’t a lot of good honest expert witness opinion available, and some cases are more black and white than others and many are real decent people with a lot of expert knowledge. Perhaps you fall in the latter, but if you can’t see a lot of expert witness in the judicial process is just a hired gun for a fee, then I doubt you know much about how the entire court process works, or expert witnesses. I rest my case.

j mac
Reply to  Earthling2
April 15, 2020 12:05 pm

What a sneering and evasive response you provided, Earthling2. I clearly stated I became a technical expert in a metals materials case, because I caught a supplier red handed violating critical material procurement specification requirements, supplying deficient materials for aerospace applications, and putting lives at risk. It was unambiguously and honestly the right thing to do. Further, I was subpoenaed and required to testify, giving me no choice had I wanted to decline! Finally, it had nothing to do with your slippery shist house lawyer style diversion to glyphosate herbicide, aka ‘RoundUp’. How beautifully ironic that is! If that is the extent of your defense, ‘councilor’, your case is lost. You really aren’t an ‘expert’ at logic, reason, and honesty, are you Earthling2?

Perhaps you are an honest person but your global tar brush attack and your flailing, evasive defense of same do not support that conclusion. If you can’t see that, I doubt you can be trusted to provide expert knowledge on anything else. Do you wish to try again? Or, better yet, man-up and offer an honest apology for impugning an honest man?

Reply to  j mac
April 15, 2020 2:00 pm

Don’t take it so personal j mac. I am not attacking you personally and certainly didn’t wake up this morning to pick a fight with you and do sincerely apologize if I offended you personally as per your expert abilities. Life is stressful enough these days without having to fight tooth and nail to make a point. As you point out in your individual case, you were subpoenaed to provide expert witness on someone caught red handed endangering public safety and actually putting lives at stake in the commercial aerospace military industry. That sounds like a clear case of black and white and that is a good case of where an expert opinion can seal the deal quickly with the judge/jury. And Rightly so. Perhaps many lives were saved.

But obviously in countless cases, there are expert opinions on both sides of most cases, and my analysis was only concerning how expert opinion can be utilized to sway a jury or a judge. Obviously, one of the experts must be wrong, or more aptly, on the balance of probabilities, one expert must be much more right than the other as is usually the case. Most things aren’t black and white, but sometimes those with the most money can win a case, just because they can hire so many expert witnesses. Sometimes…

I am an expert in some issues relating to my line of work/businesses, but I too could argue both sides of my expertise. I think at the end of the day, the expert witness has to go with what they personally believe to be the truth, and not just do it for the money which was my point, that many experts do so for both the win and the money. Having been engaged in a few such exercises hiring expert witnesses, one learns that experts from the same discipline can have 100% differing opinions. That is the nature of the business of experts, but some experts are complete frauds. Just consider some of the climate experts that testify in these court cases for the children sponsored actions against big oil. They are ‘experts’ but I wouldn’t call them honest or that intelligent.

Obviously to me, (but I am biased in the Roundup case) the experts that the complainants hired to accuse the Roundup product of causing cancer on a wide scale, is just plain wrong. And even if it was part right, what percentage of good has Roundup done for civilization as compared to what cancers were reportedly caused, if any? The benefits of Roundup are indisputable, although some might take issue with how Monsanto pursued some of their patent issues with small farmers before they sold their patent.

In any event, I unreservedly apologize to you if I inadvertently offended you with your expert capabilities in your specific case.

J Mac
Reply to  j mac
April 15, 2020 5:23 pm

You did the right thing, councilor! Apology accepted. Case dismissed.

As for glyphosate (RoundUp), the legal cases levied against Monsanto are a travesty of justice, empowered by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency For Research On Cancer. In 2015 , WHO classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans”, supported by several studies of dubious merit. This was in stark contrast to other health organizations and extensive studies that found no cancer risks whatsoever. WHO’s classification opened the door for every ambulance chasing lawyer in the world to bring class action suits….. and they did. Today we find the WHO once again embroiled in suspect behavior. This time, it is support of and running cover for China and their lack of honesty and full disclosure on the Wuhan virus. It seems as if WHO’s support can be bought…

I’ve personally been applying glyphosate since it came on the market back in the 70’s, because of its rapid broad leaf and grass kill and low persistence/fast dissipation. It does not do well on white clover and wild morning glory however, requiring applications of 2,4-D, especially when they are present in lawns or grass sod that you do not wish to damage. As in all such endeavors, ‘Wear your personal protection gear and follow the application directions’.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Earthling2
April 15, 2020 6:15 pm

Maybe you are correct for some events, but not for all.
I can quote many instances when people have become expert because their future income depends on how good they get. My own pursuit of mineral exploration provides examples. We took a tiny company and turned it into an international success over 30 years, mainly by the adoption and steady improvement of the relevant science.
Maybe the learning we gained has given benefits to many when shared, without being labelled as trespassing.
I do not recall pressures to be biased, to cherry pick (we derided that) and so on to the list of complaints about experts, a list that seems biased because it deals mostly with academia. There are whole worlds of excitement outside academia. Geoff S

April 15, 2020 8:00 am

The models used in Flight Simulators, Power Plant Simulators, Refineries Simulators, etc. give Computer models a great reputation and instill trust in these Models. Models used in these applications are verified, tested to extremes and in many cases certified by government agencies. They only simulate what they model.

Some here may not be aware of the fact that the Nuclear Power Plant Simulator used by the company that designed TMI-II did NOT include modeling of an unknown leak from the top of the pressurizer or “Solid Pressurizer” operation. That is a pressurizer with no steam bubble at the top. Operators were just mandated to “Never Operate Solid.” The lack of this one small chunk of code and the lack of operator training on at power/accident operations of a NPP in Solid conditions changed the nuclear industry Greatly. To my knowledge, no other significant lapses in NPP Simulators have been discovered in the last 40 years.

How many unknown unknowns are missing from the highly valued/believed Climate Change Models. Would easily bet my entire retirement investment account that more than two equally significant factors are not in their models.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Uzurbrain
April 15, 2020 8:45 am

“How many unknown unknowns are missing from the highly valued/believed Climate Change Models. ”

Many, I’m sure. But the bigger problem with the models is the practice of shoe-horning CO2 into every process.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
April 15, 2020 9:50 am

“But the bigger problem with the models is the practice of shoe-horning CO2 into every process.”

Correct – and the even bigger problem is that they have the logic reversed:
Atmospheric CO2 changes lag ocean temperature changes and atmospheric temperature changes at all measured time scales – aka “cart before horse”. The mainstream climate models are drivel.

Robert W. Turner
April 15, 2020 8:04 am

Well you don’t need a PhD in mathematics to recognize that those affected by unemployment, in just the USA alone, outnumber confirmed cases of SARS-Cov2 worldwide 10:1. The global economic meltdown is just getting underway and it will be much worse than this virus on a societal scale.

But what do I know, I’m not an epistemologist or a sociologist who have certainly claimed responsibility for the impending economic impacts for their recommendations to policy leaders, right?

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
April 15, 2020 4:38 pm

My grandfather had the biggest car dealership in Toronto. It failed by 1930 in the ‘great depression’. He jumped off the Sunnybrook Bridge, but not until 2 years later, leaving a wife and 3 children. The single most important cause of suicide is economic failure, and the lockdown bankruptcies and unemployment effects will spread themselves over the next few years with increased depression and suicide. Its a hard thing to say, but protecting the most vulnerable by shutting down the economy will, in the long run lead to not having the economic where-with-all to protect the next crop of vulnerables.

My husband and I are in the vulnerable group, and I reckon we need to take our chances.

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
April 15, 2020 8:11 pm

Total unemployed is over 17 Million. One percent of that is 170,000, and to assume that less than 1 percent commit suicide or shoot their spouse, die of drug overdose or alcohol overdose if we are locked up for another month is absurd. It would be worse. But even just that number is now considered more than the worst case for COVID.

Michael Jankowski
April 15, 2020 8:06 am

I have been following a professor on LinkedIn named Shuqing. Yang. He has a simple model for every country that works quite well generally. Of course, he is a civil engineering professor with a water resources background, and the model is a hydrology analogue.

Michael 2
April 15, 2020 8:18 am

On the demand for exact numbers:

In my Navy days a hydraulically actuated disk drive failed spectacularly. Oil spewed internally and dripped onto the floor. An angry lieutenant stormed into the computer room demanding to know why we had taken down the computer without permission. I explained that the disk drive had failed to ask permission to fail, it just did, and that set a succession of failures in motion. He demanded to know how long it would take to fix it.

“Fifteen minutes!”

So 15 minutes later he came to check on progress. How much longer?

“Fifteen minutes!”

This cycle repeated several times. Finally the lieutenant said, “You really have no idea how long this is going to take.”

“That is correct. We will advise when it is repaired.”

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Michael 2
April 15, 2020 8:42 am

In the Army, I always said, there’s nothing more dangerous than a 2nd Lt with a clipboard.

Russell Dyer
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
April 15, 2020 10:09 am

The next most dangerous would be a p!ssed off private 1st class with a frag grenade!

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Michael 2
April 15, 2020 9:56 pm

Sounds like an expiditer.
“I need it now, regardless what you committed to provide”.

Michael in Dublin
April 15, 2020 8:39 am

We should doubt that trespassers are reliable judges in fields where they are outsiders.
assertion from Epistemic Trespassing

Not once does the author, Ballantyne, use the word “logic” or “logical” or “illogical.”

He assumes that “thinkers who have competence or expertise to make good judgments in one field” will always do so in their particular field. This is simply not true. That is why one of the greatest English scientists, Michael Faraday, attributed his success to the influence on him, his thinking and reasoning of both people who were scientists and to outsiders.

I can show Ballantyne various examples of “reliable judges” in a particular field displaying convoluted and contradictory reasoning in their own fields. This is why an intelligent layman can legitimately ask hard questions of both a climate scientist and a virologist. He can discredit them by exposing their flawed reasoning and illogical claims without reproducing their experiments.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 15, 2020 9:11 am

Michael in Dublin

You write: “… an intelligent layman can legitimately ask hard questions of both a climate scientist and a virologist. He can discredit them by exposing their flawed reasoning and illogical claims without reproducing their experiments.”


Alexander Vissers
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 15, 2020 12:57 pm

True, reasoning based on expertise is by definition non-scientific. Even the word judgement has nothing to do with science. It may have political or legal bearing but no scientific relevance. Most researchers in virology openly state that we know very little about the virus but are learning fast. Everyone who says differently faces the burden of proof. Short,not the epistemic trespassing but “expertism” is the real problem.

Jeff Alberts
April 15, 2020 8:41 am

“The flip side of this coin is the dismissal by academics of the likes of Steve McIntyre”

Dismissal?? They’ve called him every name in the book, yet none of them can refute his results.

April 15, 2020 8:52 am

I believe that science was abandoned decades ago in many fields decades ago and replaced with expert opinion.
It is becoming obvious in many fields, especially those influencing government, experts are just plain wrong. They have never been held accountable for results. Public health is a disaster even without this epidemic.
The idea that any of them can predict the future is a joke.

April 15, 2020 9:02 am

An expert imho is someone that can successfully predict things better than most other people. I don’t care about their education or field. For example the most successful people to ever predict the stock market are a group of computer scientists that have a background in speech recognition. They knew nothing about finance, economics, yet they could predict market better than anyone and made billions of dollars doing so.

April 15, 2020 9:32 am

“It’s as if someone ran a simulation with a climate model and presented the prediction without any basic check on whether it reproduced the recent warming. ”

CMIP6 springs to my mind…

Schrodinger's Cat
April 15, 2020 9:57 am

There is nothing wrong with models if they are validated by rigorous testing under a range of conditions .
There is everything wrong with climate models.

April 15, 2020 10:00 am

Recently, an Australian article on a News Corp website saw an expert denounce six climate change myths.

I commented by putting forward six myths of modern journalism, one of which was the mythical ability of journalists to instinctively know who is an expert on a given subject such as climate change and who is to be labelled a denier and pilloried. Another myth was the commitment of journalists to freedom of speech.

Naturally, the comment did not pass moderation, not for any immoderate tendencies other than being from a denier. Thus, I followed up with a comment thanking the moderator for not approving my comment, thereby proving my comment to be correct.

The expert then proceeded to “take down” the deniers’ comments in a subsequent piece. It was the usual grab-bag of illogical sneering masquerading as science.

I must say that I was deeply offended in not getting a guernsey there! However, I rather doubt that the ‘climate change expert’ had any desire to substantiate her truly tenuous hold on that title, nor had the journalist for promoting it.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Centre-leftist
April 15, 2020 8:25 pm, far from being the ‘Hate Media’ our Social Elite claim, is a fake news clickbait site.

Yes it does host many people who are conservatives, but you only have to look at what is currently their most popular video to see how dedicated they are to unbias reporting.

The Australian can go jump as well. One of their columnist once stated – mainly in order to belittle then PM Tony Abbott – that the job loss of myself and about 300 of my once work mates never happened and we didn’t exist.

Hey, only took 6 years to finally reboot my career. No big deal.

I actually rarely hate people, but I also rarely forgive.

Dodgy Geezer
April 15, 2020 10:07 am

“……In Plato’s Apology, Socrates tells us he tracked down citizens in Athens who had reputations for being skilled. He met politicians, poets, and craftsmen and tested their mettle. As Socrates says, he ‘found those who had the highest reputation were nearly the most deficient’ ……..”

Remind me again – what were Socrates’ qualifications for making these pronouncements about politics, poetry and woodwork..?

Richard Saumarez
April 15, 2020 11:21 am

I think Annan’s paper on the Markov chain modeling is interesting. I suspect that it is relatively robust and is sufficiently simply not to become too ill-conditioned as regards parameter fitting. He makes a good point if other models are not self-calibrating.

Reply to  Richard Saumarez
April 15, 2020 4:31 pm

Markov Monte-Carlo chain modelling method is certainly a useful tool for modelling various outputs in number of scientific research areas. I was using it few times to get an answer which treatment of some cancer sites is more cost-effective: proton therapy or VMAT photon one. However, the reliability/validity of the result created by Markov chain method heavily depends on the correct probabilities values entered as an input of number of parameters used by the model. In other words the method is very much vulnerable to the classical GIGO syndrome.

April 15, 2020 11:50 am

My first reaction is to reject the idea of … epistemic trespassing.

What is being put forth here is a neat label that can TOO EASILY bed called into play to dismiss intelligent contributions from one field to another.

You don’t like what a seasoned mathematical physicist says about a climate scientists use of physics. Hey, no problem, just accuse him of … “epistemic trespassing” — that should be enough to get him off your back.

This phrase is just a fake phrase to complicate an already established duality — namely, good analysis vs bad analysis, thus, creating a verbal tool to dismiss competent, valid ideas from anyone . This phrase is a gift to climate alarmists, in particular — I can see it coming up quite frequently now. If you are not in the group of folks who publish climate articles in the good-ol’-boys climate journals, then you are now automatically subject to the position of an “epistemic trespasser”.

I reject this phrase, “epistemic trespassing”, just as I reject the phrase, “climate denier”.

April 15, 2020 12:36 pm

The Cult of “Science” cannot tolerate heresy.

Real science is advanced by heretics knocking the priesthood off their pedestals.

Pete W.
April 15, 2020 1:25 pm

I can’t directly fault what is posted above regarding trespassing. However, it does bring to my mind memories of British activites during WW2. Bletchley Park and the Royal Navy Operational Research department (to name but two) drew their staff from an exceedingly wide range of Peacetime occupations. How were those cocktails of talent and expertise rendered effective (and they were effective)? Could it have been down to good/inspired leadership??? I don’t know.

Pete W.
Reply to  Pete W.
April 16, 2020 5:07 am

Please delete ‘activites’, replace with ‘activities’.

April 15, 2020 1:26 pm

Apologies for the off-topic post, but I wanted this group to see a conversation-changing item I found. It calculates your risk of dying from coronavirus based on your demographic information.

As I hear the stats each day, it occurs to me that if one is working-age and not living in NYC, one’s chances of succumbing to COVID-19 are pretty low. Turns out mine are lower than being struck by lightning. And I’m not afraid of being struck by lightning.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  damp
April 15, 2020 3:50 pm

“I’m not afraid of being struck by lightning.” I am if I fishing in aluminum boat hanging onto a graphic fish rod and they are thunder storms around. One such sunny day I did get a shock off my rod and when I held said rod it hummed yes I did hear rumbling far off. Needless to say rod went to bottom of boat and boat headed to shore. Said thunder storm never got close to where I was that day. Must have been nearly fifteen miles away. Thanks for the link.

slow to follow
April 15, 2020 2:00 pm

Steve is right: use of proper techniques shouldn’t be contentious.

Problem is that many who should have been in the slow lane, or not on the road at all, have pulled out in to the fast lane without the horsepower to make the pace.

A better analogy would be “those without a license should stay off the highway”.

April 15, 2020 2:06 pm

In Spanish a know it all is called “sabelo todo” (saber = know, lo = it, todo = all). Stateside I went to open a bank account & was asked to list my occupation.

Being retired & no longer working I put down retired. The bi-lingual desk jockey said “not acceptable” & so I put down sabelo todo.

This led to the assistant manager being called over & after hearing the translation of my occupation as know it all said “not acceptable”. So I put down worker, because I still did things with plants.

Still not satisfied the assistant manager said “not acceptable”. So I began to lay out from my late teens 30+ years of work living outside the USA.

We retirees have few captive audiences to regale & I was just dredging up some detail when the assistant manage looked longingly at her pile of desk papers as being suddenly immensely interesting. She cut me off & we agreed on “laborer” as my occupation – but fellow WUWT regulars know I just an old sabelo todo.

Greg Cavanagh
April 15, 2020 2:52 pm

RE: “We should doubt that trespassers are reliable judges in fields where they are outsiders.” In other words, stay in your lane.”

I’m not going to agree with this. While I do know of many examples where one’s opinion is dross, on a fundamental level I think this conclusion is wrong.

I believe it’s better to explain why you think a thing is, that way anyone can evaluate that opinion and point out errors, be inspired by a new idea, realise there’s a link between X and Y (cross pollination in science used to be a thing).

I’m basing this, my opinion, on the fact that I work in engineering. I’m a civil designer, my fields of study were everything from geology, soil mechanics, hydrology, structural mechanics, and many more. While Engineers work in a specialised field, the lesser known designers have a wide set of skills, but the most fundamental of skills is the ability to read any manual and understand it. (and yes, some are better than others).

My proposition therefor is: As long as someone’s opinion can be explained as to why they believe as they do, the opinion may be of interest. If it’s just an opinion from authority and they refuse to explain it, it should be held with suspicion.

April 15, 2020 2:55 pm

Some epistemic trespassers:

-Albert Einstein, patent clerk, presuming to know something about physics, publishing 4 papers in 1905 on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and matter-energy equivalence (E=mc²)
-Hedy Lamarr, actress, had the gall to think she could invent frequency-hopping spread spectrum wireless radio technology in 1942 that is now used all over the world in things like WiFi routers and Bluetooth devices.

April 15, 2020 4:08 pm

So why are Taiwan deaths from the wuflu now 0.3 per mil and NY state deaths now 591 per mil?
Yet Taiwan is only about 29% the size of New York state ( sq klms) and has been/is operating in a fairly normal way, certainly no lock downs etc while NY has been operating under severe lock down for weeks.
Also Taiwan is about 110 klms from the Chinese coastline and has about 4 million more people than NY state. What’s going on or as J S Miller would say , “why is it so”?
Check it out for yourself.

Curious George
Reply to  Neville
April 15, 2020 4:40 pm

There are many possibilities, like “They understand China better”, or “The virus does not survive in hot climates”.

J Mac
Reply to  Neville
April 15, 2020 5:39 pm

It does seem like a glaring outlier, doesn’t it?

Ian Coleman
April 15, 2020 4:31 pm

If I were being honest, just about everything I say about most topics is epistemic trespass.

Actually, I have a certain respect for the good sense of most people. My own rejection of the climate catastrophe narrative is not founded on any useful knowledge of climate modelling or climatology itself. My doubts arise from an intuitive distrust of people who won’t submit to fair argument. The climate change guys immediately get my suspicions up by suppressing dissent. (Same with the Evolution guys, to cite a parallel example. )

The thing about this site that really makes an impression is how learned about Science so many of the posters are. Not me, but many of the others. Also, a lot of these posters are such clear writers than I can understand their arguments. (I took Engineering in university. I didn’t graduate, but I did acquire a good understanding of analytical thought and statistical analysis. I know how to test a null hypothesis. Stuff like that.)

April 15, 2020 5:04 pm

Oh for the days when a bunch of us from different specialities (including grad students) gathered in the coffee room for hour long lunches and epistemically trespassed. The dept provided coffee for all, including precocious undergrads. I got to revel in it in two universities for many years. A lot of good ideas actually came out of it. It all ended with us all eating at our computers writing grant applications.

Gunga Din
April 15, 2020 8:17 pm

So which lane should the “jack of all trades, master of none” stay in?

But a big problem I see is that ego often prevents experts “in their lane” refuse to accept input from experts in a different lane.
(Also, some are declared to be “experts” in their lane when they are nothing of the sort. But it is useful to declare them to be “experts” because they can be … useful.)

Reply to  Gunga Din
April 16, 2020 7:11 am

Without being an expert yourself, can you even identify “lanes”?

With really narrow “lanes” of hyper-specialization, it isn’t that obvious.

Craig from Oz
April 15, 2020 8:35 pm

(from the article above)

“The flip side of this coin is the dismissal by academics of the likes of Steve McIntyre…”

This is the danger. When you start to enforce who can and can’t trespass, you end up with gatekeeping.

Then comes the question, who gates the gatekeepers?

Simple answer is no one. They create their own safespace environments and moderate all discussion to ensure there is no hate speech within their boundaries.

To be pragmatic you are never going to breech their walls, so it is probably best not to try. You don’t need to convince THEM that their argument is wrong, just their audience. Sing to the watching crowd, not the others hogging the stage.

April 15, 2020 9:23 pm

You don’t have to completely eat a rotten egg to say it’s rotten.

Those annoying anti-Raoult whiners said nothing about:

– nearly all vaccines
– Tamiflu (or similar antivirals)
– modern, “better” anti cancer drugs that perform no better
– breast cancer screening
– President Trump touting better cancer care in the US (he may be right, but the number he gave is irrelevant BS promoted by the cancer industry)

Didier Raoult was right to criticize climate modeling in Le Point. It isn’t trespassing into atmospheric, physical, or modeling sciences. He never claimed to be able to do better models. Those who think they can get him on that only owned themselves.

April 15, 2020 11:39 pm

“Stay in your lane”

OK then, how is that guy in his lane?

Infectious Diseases Physician, Molecular Biologist, @TEDFellow, #TEDSpeaker, #IDSAFellow, #HIV and #vaccine activist. No online consults, just useful info.

“There is pretty good evidence that the genome of SARS-CoV-2 evolved NATURALLY. NO indication it was weaponized. Analysis of the whole genome would have turned up evidence of manipulation. This virus seems to have evolved naturally from bats.”

“would have turned up evidence”? How the hell does he know? What role has he played either inventing or identifying a man made virus?

He doesn’t say. Nobody dared to ask him!

April 16, 2020 1:47 am

When the medical doctors posted graphic images of emergency rooms with blood all over the place to push for “gun control” (whatever that is), were they in their lane?

(Also, how are we supposed to trust doctors who post images so gross?)

Eric Vieira
April 16, 2020 4:34 am

A general comment:
The generalist knows little about everything
The specialist knows a lot about nothing…

Reality lies somewhere in between:
As the scientific method commands: it’s not the person or his credentials or expertise that counts,
its the scientific arguments that are brought forward which are relevant. There is no “trespassing”.

Alan D. McIntire
April 16, 2020 5:47 am

Proficiency in “Climate Science” requires an expertise in Geology- studying actual PAST changes in climate, an expertise in Astronomy and Astrophysics- the effects of changes in the Sun’s luminosity, changes in cosmic rays, an expertise in Oceanography- Earth’s oceans have about 1000 times the heat capacity of air, an expertise in Mathematics and statistics- to correctly analyze statistical trends and not fall for spurious “Arcsine rule” trends, etc. NOBODY has an expertise in ALL of these fields.

“Historically, students of the atmosphere and climate have had proficiency in one
of the physical disciplines that underpin the subject, but not in the others. Under the
fashionable umbrella of climate science, many today do not have proficiency in even one.
What is today labeled climate science includes everything from archeology of the
Earth to superficial statistics and a spate of social issues. Yet, many who embrace the
label have little more than a veneer of insight into the physical processes that actually
control the Earth-atmosphere system, let alone what is necessary to simulate its evolution
reliably. Without such insight and its application to resolve major uncertainties,
genuine progress is unlikely.”- Murray Salby, Preface to “Physics of the Atmosphere and Climate”.

April 16, 2020 1:45 pm
April 16, 2020 2:05 pm

I am a victim of epistemic parochialism.

I am not a climate scientist. In fact, I am not a scientist with a degree or standing in any field … except one: data analysis. In that I am highly qualified. I work in aerospace. That field requires … how shall I say … fairly rigorous truth tests at every stage of everything!

The sting is this: I receive insults and shoutdowns from both sides of the climate change issue! The Appeal to Authority comes out with alarming alacrity!

This does not hurt my feelings; it serves as a smoking gun that I have put my finger on something, since the attacks do not address my charts, only on my “amateur” or “non-peer-group” standing.

Well, true science is transparent, repeatable, falsifiable, and conclusions must be arrived at with sound reasoning. All rationals are invited to come on in, take your best shot, but only the facts.

The data underlying any claim is to be made public in its complete, raw form. I seize it. Other data mavens do the same. We are the peer group. Those too close to the trees must be locked outside while we data people are at work.

Robert B
April 16, 2020 10:26 pm

An expert is someone who can spot the problem with an argument before a layman. They might get tired of repeating themselves but they aren’t in communication with God.

Roger Knights
April 17, 2020 11:50 am
April 17, 2020 7:55 pm

Neil deGrasse Tyson @neiltyson

I see stuff about
– lockdowns and peeing in pools
– Covid and dandruff
– quantum physics
– brain waves

He is trespassing?

April 19, 2020 3:52 pm

The French Academy of Sciences stated that the Kung Flu was NOT manipulated genetically or weaponized in ANY way. (Did not merely state that natural mutation was enough to explain the genetic code.)

Is a civilian science body trespassing in the military biological area?

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