Ted Talks just recently posted a 2002 talk by Biochemist Kary Mullis: Celebrating the scientific experiment.
“Biochemist Kary Mullis talks about the basis of modern science: the experiment. Sharing tales from the 17th century and from his own backyard-rocketry days, Mullis celebrates the curiosity, inspiration and rigor of good science in all its forms.”
Unfortunately Mullis illustrates the truth of his excellent advice by completely ignoring it and instead spouts a bunch of utter nonsense about climate science.
We start with a 20 minute talk about the history of science and what makes for good science that is folksy, engaging and quite enjoyable.
As an anchor for the talk he uses the book Leviathan and the Air-Pump to emphasize the importance of verifiable evidence over received wisdom.
He then launches into a 10 minute anti-climate science polemic in which he ignores everything that he had just said. A predictable result is that what he concludes is utterly foolish.
There is nothing particularly interesting about being hopelessly wrong about climate change. Two minutes with a search engine shows that it is common enough.
The two things that make Mullis interesting are:
i) the truth of scientific principles and the critical importance of following them regardless of personal beliefs or preferences, and
ii)) that a trained scientist who clearly knows what makes for good science is still able to delude himself into spouting gibberish almost in the same breath that he is warning against the folly of doing it.
Mullis begins his assault on science with a broad ad hominem attack on the IPCC that is completely without any foundation or evidence. His claim is that in modernity people have gotten involved in science as they are “in there for the money” power and travel.
Excuse me? No question that being a scientist is a relatively secure and comfortable living. No doubt it represents vast wealth and power to those living in crippling poverty, but those people do not have the option to become scientists.
How many people seeking power and wealth say becoming an atmospheric physicist or oceanographer is the way to go? How many heads of state or members of the super rich say they owe it all to their work in paleoclimatology? Anyone?
That might be because it’s not.
People interested in wealth and power wisely choose to become business leaders, lawyers, rock, sports and film stars, military leaders, etc.
Anyone who chooses the sciences for this reason is clearly not bright enough to ever actually become a scientist (or wealthy and powerful).
The whole premise is so ludicrous it’s staggering. And Mullis is a scientist; he knows this from his everyday experience of not being wealthy or powerful. He lives it, and yet there he is making the statement. It beggars belief.
ASIDE for a cushy job with good pay it was hard to beat being a professional climate Denier since the oil industry had deep pockets.
He then makes the claim that temperature increases are only at night, a misrepresentation of the then 11 year old study by Karl et al that showed the temperature changes were more pronounced at night, but not exclusively.
Mullis parrots the idea common in the early 1990s that the measured temperature increase might be due to an urban heat island effect; ie weather stations are near cities, cities trap day time heat in all the concrete and asphalt and hence are warmer at night than the surrounding areas.
Fail #s 3, 4, and 5
i) urban weather stations are not the only source of land temperature data. There are and were many rural stations that were showing the same pattern as the urban ones;
ii) other measures of temperature such as ocean bouys and weather ballons were also showing temperature increases (discussed in more detail here).
iii) a 1997 paper by Easterling et al (already 5 years old at the time of Mullis’s talk) had shown the urban heat island explanation was wrong. Aside – they did this by not using the urban weather station data and analysing only the temperature data sets mentioned in i) and ii).
For more on Urban Heat Islands and the fable that they explain climate change see here.
Anyone can make a mistake and we can’t all know everything; those are given. But Mullis is a professional presenting himself as an authority on good science while giving a public presentation on climate.
In this regard he has a responsibility to get it right. Instead he is inexcusably sloppy in both his research and his understanding.
Fail #s 6,7, and 8
Mullis’s first five ‘fails’ set him up to blindly embrace his sixth, seventh and eighth ‘fails.’
He pulls out of his pocket notes on the then just published Evidence for Strengthening of the Tropical General Circulation in the 1990s and Evidence for Large Decadal Variability in the Tropical Mean Radiative Energy Budget. The nutshell version of these papers is that the satellite data do not seem to support anthropogenic climate change and that natural variations are a more likely explanation.
Mullis claims to paraphrase the conclusions of the authors and the editor of Science as “The conclusion is that our theories about global warming are completely wrong”
Fail #6, he is lying.
Actual conclusion of Chen et al “The missing variability in the models highlights the critical need to improve cloud modeling in the tropics so that prediction of tropical climate on interannual and decadal time scales can be improved.” (emphasis added).
He actually admits he was lying when he later says “you can tell because they have very guarded conclusions in these papers.” He explains the “guarded conclusions” as being due to the author’s fear of losing funding and wanting to adhere to the orthodoxy of the day.
This is just speculation that is:
- hypocritical given that the authors are really just practicing the proper scientific caution that Mullis had been advocating for most of his talk,
- irresponsible given that he has absolutely no evidence or reason to say this other than his own personal motives
- unprofessional, given that he is slandering his colleagues for no reason other than to ‘prove’ his own baseless beliefs.
Mullis concludes “These papers should have been called ‘The end to the global warming fiasco‘.”
The authors of the two papers and Mullis did not know this of course, but he still should have followed the authors real conclusions (as per his own advice) and not imposed his outrageous interpretation.
Undoubtedly he did so because his sloppy treatment of the other temperature records led him to conclude that all of the other temperature records were wrong, and so these studies seemed to suggest that all of the temperature data was wrong. In reality the data were all correct and he was wrong.
For more on the fable that the satellite data shows cooling see here.
The Big Fail: How could he be so wrong?
In his talk Mullis says “You have to get down into the details and read the papers.” True. Why didn’t he?
The core message of Mullis’s entire presentation is that you must look at the data and not let your preconceived ideas impose interpretation. Yet when it came to climate science he imposed interpretations and fabricated explanations as to why the data was wrong at every step of the way.
Why? Mullis never talks about his personal motivations and ideology, so we can’t know. Clearly some kind of strongly held ideology was leading him to consistently ignore the data, slander his colleagues and make up explanations out of nothing.
As a result what should have been a great talk on science ends up being uninformed, unprofessional, and given his earlier admonitions, very hypocritical.
Now that his talk has been released it would be nice if Mullis himself were to step forward and affirm the wisdom of the first 20 minutes by acknowledging that by ignoring that wisdom he spent the last 10 minutes being an ASS.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 80 … still no evidence.