The advocate will pick up any piece of apparently useful data and without doing any analysis, decide that their pet theory perfectly explains any anomaly without consideration of any alternative explanations. Their conclusion is always that their original theory is correct.
The scientist will look at all possibilities and revise their thinking based on a thorough assessment of all issues – data quality, model quality and appropriateness of the the comparison. Their conclusion follows from the analysis whatever it points to.
595 Responses to "Advocacy vs. Science"
Jeff from Ohio says
I think the first definition would better fit the words ‘intellectually lazy’ or ’emotionally fearful of looking at reality’. I think your definition of ‘scientist’ is spot on. To me, the ‘advocate’ is the person who picks up the conclusion from the scientist and says: “What can I do with this to make the world a better place?” Scientists aren’t SUPPOSED to be advocates or propose policy. However the current state of climate change may require much more of the latter, for the scientists to have a world to study the possibilities of.
Matt Lees says
Looking at Miriam Webster Online and Wikipedia an Advocate is, essentially, someone who acts on behalf of another and has a specific legal context. The meaning given in Advocacy vs. Science is utterly misconstrued and displays the typical misunderstanding of common English exhibited by the typical Global Warming activist – whether or not he/she is a scientist or a ‘believer’ or ‘follower of the faith’. Other misrepresentations are, for example, ‘Save the World’: irrespective of whether humans have caused global warming the world WILL continue – we just may not be here to witness it.
[Response: I’m sure that’s comforting to you. – gavin]
Corey Watts says
Speaking as an advocate with a scientific background and who works alongside scientists and scientist-advocates, the dichotomy is a false one. The characterisation of ‘scientist’ is right enough, but I bristle at the strawman ‘advocate’. There is no essential divide between intelligent, intellectually honest advocacy and science. Scientists, moreover, don’t work in a social or political vacuum.
[Response: Give me a better name then. – gavin]
Matt Y says
Gavin – I suggest “lobbyist” would work where you used “advocate.” Webster’s would agree. And “lobbyist” already has a negative connotation – which I think suits your purpose nicely (btw, I agree).
If you et al. here don’t like “lobbyist,” then how about “snake oil salesman”?
Vern Johnson says
In law, true.
In common english, no …
Webster also gives this:
Amercan Heritage gives this:
Random House gives this:
Seems to me that I, a non-denier of climate science, have a better grasp of common english than Matt Lees.
More humorously, Matt Lees has just demonstrated why the denialist’s favorite tactic – cherry-picking data – leads to epic failure.
Jan Rooth says
Strange, my Websters defines “advocate” as “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.” Which fits the meaning intended in this post pretty well, I’d say.
Here’s another recent (and very amusing) Watts boner: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/03/26/galactic-cosmic-rays-may-be-responsible-for-the-antarctic-ozone-hole/
It’s really obvious that Watts did not read (or if he did, understand) the paper in question.
Put me in the advocate category. As a well educated adult (MS Mech Engineering, MBA Columbia) I had no idea – until I saw An Inconvenient Truth – that human beings had reconfigured the earth’s atmosphere in such a dramatic way over such a short period of human history. When I also learned that this reconfiguration could have had serious implications for the stability of the earth’s climate system, I became an advocate. Now I am learning from climate scientists like Mark Chandler, Linda Sohl and Christy Vedeer at GISS, I am working with Tom Lovejoy of the Heinz Center to understand how biosystems are being affected by climate change, and I have formed a business consortium called InTERRAction to encourage business enterprises to see themselves as systems, and as subsystems of a global economic system that eventually must be aligned with the earth’s ecosystem.
I can speak pretty coherently to lay people about the basics of climate change, but the work that Dr. Lindzen puts out makes me look sort of out of place – as in who would listen to me about the dangers of AGW when someone with the credentials of a Richard Lindzen thinks the opposite.
Is it sufficent (or indeed proper) to say that Lindzen is just an indignant scientist whose ideas have been rejected by his peers, and leave it at that?
Ray Ladbury says
One can be an activist and a scientist, but I’m afraid I agree with Gavin: a scientist cannot affort to fall in love with (i.e. advocate for) a theory. If you don’t like “advocate,” try one of my favorites: ignorant food tube.
Lawrence Brown says
Sometimes you need to tell your friends when you think they are wading in shark infested waters. A blanket criticism of advocates(if indeed you are criticizing them) over scientists doesn’t always work, at least not here. Al Gore is an advocate, who has studied the warming problem in depth, has worked hard to learn the facts and has presented them fairly and accurately. Freeman Dyson, the scientist, for all his laurels. is spouting nonsense when it comes to global climate change. He calls Gore an opportunist without any evidence to back it up. Gore isn’t running for public office, isn’t looking for any accolades(the Nobel people came to him) as far as I can see.So much for the scientific method in this case.
So Dyson is a scientist and Gore is not. Lest the scientists go on a wrong way ego trip, the advocate has the correct stance in this instance.
David B. Benson says
Andrew (9) — I suggest being ultra-polite and leave off the “indignant” bit.
Hank Roberts says
Newspapers have similar concerns. This is the WSJ’s ‘Style’ blog
(brief excerpt, see link for full item)
March 31, 2009, 11:32 am
Vol. 22, No. 3
The tilt of the talking heads
… we should limit our quoting of analysts and other “expert” talking heads and that, when we do quote them, we should try as hard as we can to suggest the ideological tilt of their organizations, as in left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, libertarian Cato Institute, etc.
… also dislikes the misuse of “concede” and “acknowledge” in stories instead of “said” when the subjects involved are stating matters of opinion. …. Claimed, incidentally, is better avoided except in cases where skepticism on the matter is generally known.
On the subject of preferences why do we use fancy names like financial account executives? They are commonly brokers, just as sanitation engineers are usually just janitors or garbage collectors. Dysphemize those euphemisms….
I also think that advocate is the wrong word to use. It’s not in the least opposite or conflicting with science, as scientists’ evaluation of evidence often leads them to become advocates for or against certain policies.
I’m not quite sure what the appropriate word is, though. I’ll suggest believer. Believers may hold their positions for some reason unrelated to the science (e.g. God just wouldn’t allow climate change”), or they may become attached to some theory that seems reasonable in the light of the evidence at the time they adopt the belief. (See “paradigm shift.) In either case, they seem to become incapable of re-evaluating their beliefs in the light of new evidence.
Mike Strong says
So. Can anyone PLEASE create a forum where the skeptics and the AGW advocats can actually debate, present data and go at it? One on one? RealClimate.org, just like McIntyre, Anthony Watts and Icecap.org, each side shows its bias by listing links and posting blog supporters but snipping out the opposition from the posts and website links.
I REALLY would like to see a REAL debate in cyberspace and in public. Point and counterpoint, rather than sniping at each other. Sniping is unprofessional, but peer review (even with doubters) is how we must discipline ourselves as engineers and scientists. It is the basis of science theory versus truth.
Recently, I have been having an email debate with Joe Romm at ClimateProgress.org …where I presented my opinion versus his (I am also a liberal, a conserver and recycler with a small car). And I voted for Obama.
I was called a person who wears a “tin foil hat”, a “dude” and that I would probably be put in jail if my opinions on AGW were similar to my work. There were also statements that skeptic opinions were “debunked long ago” and the “debate is over”. I can’t see that there has ever been an open debate. Where? When? Who were the debaters?
Can you folks publish BOTH sides, then debate, rather than just posting what your beliefs are true. As an engineer, I must agree that we all need to look in the mirror and be unbaised, not entrench ourselves in our own camps like Sunnis versus Shiites.
San Diego, CA
11. “Al Gore is an advocate, who has studied the warming problem in depth, has worked hard to learn the facts and has presented them fairly and accurately. Freeman Dyson, the scientist, for all his laurels, is spouting nonsense when it comes to global climate change.”
RC moderator’s non-response to this statement is an example of what I believe earns RC its “advocacy site” label.
Jeff from Ohio says
#13. According to dictionary.com, ‘Dysphemize’ is not a word. Although maybe it’s a joke I’m not getting.
So Mike Strong wants to debate our beliefs. Sorry mate, but beliefs are about e.g. how many heads your god(s) have i.e. untestable and debates on science went out around the time of Galileo. Science is about data, hypotheses (hopefully multiple) and repeatability. Mind you as a grey-haired geochemist I’ve seen enough in my career to think the “scientist” portrayed in the comments is very idealized. Science can go up blind alleys and much rubbish does make it into journals despite peer review. And denial is not a new aspect of science. It is an unfortunate aspect of over-sized egos which too frequently overcome commonsense and genuine skepticism.
Russ Doty says
While it is undoubtedly good to agree on terms, I would rather see us agreed on action than debate whether scientists can be advocates, and vice versa. You all have an opportunity to cut nighttime electricity use in your city by up to 60% with LED street and parking lot lights. And you can get much of it funded with 2009 Stimulus money. Those scientists who wish to act on their well-reasoned and thoroughly researched positions can join in my advocacy by going to http://www.newworldwindpower.com for some LED advocacy tools you can use to help.
Hank Roberts says
> a forum … actually debate, present data, and go at it
There is one!
Do you know how to use Google Scholar?
Anybody who’s good enough at doing science to be worth listening to on this subject can be found that way.
Start with a search like that, and narrowing it down.
Oh, did you mean a place for the peanut gallery to opinionate?
Richard Ordway says
Lindzen writes in his piece linked above: “…climate predictions…”
Wow!!! So legitimate climate scientists are using the word “predictions” now!
I think Idealogue is the best description of folks like Dyson and Lindzen. “Idealogues VS Scientists….”
A lot of AGW deniers are simply against the idea that the environmental movement is socially useful.
Some environmental groups have gone out of their way to embrace AGW solutions that would normally be taboo for them such as nuclear power or coal fired power plants with carbon capture and sequestration. This is obviously an effort to sway anti-environmental movement idealogues that the environmental movement is serious about the need to find a solution to AGW regardless of its source.
Likewise, the Obama administration goes out of its way to mention that coal use is still ok if CCS is used; despite the fact that it is probably a pipe dream and also really PO’s Joe Romm. In other words they are screaming to the deniers “We Are Not Idealogues!” who are against coal or nuclear or any other true solution.
I’ve thought that one weak argument that a lot of climate scientists make and one that could betray their secret environmentalists tendacies (idealogy) is their dismissal of climate adjusting actions such as seeding the ocean with iron or doing a Matrix on the atmosphere (“We did that” – Morpheus) with sulfur dioxide clouds. Though more research has proven this original sentiment right.
By going out of their way to share data and ideas and by setting up blogs such as Real Climate; scientists are defeating the best efforts of idealogues. Keep it up.
Evan Jones says
I must object to one of the above posts.
As a moderator on Anthony Watts’ blog, I assure you that we never, ever snip a view merely because it is pro- or con- AGW or disputes something that is posted.
We have many passionately pro-AGW posters and they are valued members and welcome guests. (And I believe in some cases, even moderators, themselves.)
At any rate, we are–very–light on the delete button and generally lean on it only in cases of personal attack on fellow-commenters. (We are not known for being strict topic cops, either, though we have been known to thump the old nightstick on the garbage can on rare occasions.)
So, if you want to debate on WUWT, jump on in, the water’s, um, warm. We won’t delete you unless you are–really–cruising for a bruising.
Thanks for allowing me to comment on this.
Mark A. York says
The so-called debate is within the paradigm of of AGW is real and the basic facts are well-defined and supported by solid research with observable data. What some folks want is equal time and weight for out and out misinformation and energy industry propaganda. That’s the sort of affirmative action science doesn’t allow or should.
There are some advocates who are set in their views and won’t change them under any circumstances, and other advocates who will change their positions if they are fairly falsified. Also in the latter class, there are those who openly seek falsification, as a means of confirming that at least for the moment they are justified in believing that they are pursuing a good path.
Also, I am not sure where science would be without two sides of some hypothesis or theory advocating their positions and competing their way to a more settled general understanding. One will eventually prevail, although the other may continue to twitch its tail for a long time.
Ike Solem says
By Bettina Boxall
6:20 PM PDT, April 1, 2009
“As California warms in coming decades, farmers will have less water, the state could lose more than a million acres of cropland and forest fire rates will soar, according to a broad-ranging state report released Wednesday.”
“The document, which officials called the “the ultimate picture to date” of global warming’s likely effect on California, consists of 37 research papers that examine an array of issues including water supply, air pollution and property losses.”
Andy Heninger says
#15: “I can’t see that there has ever been an open debate. Where? When? Who were the debaters?”
The “debate” if you will, took place over the course of more than 100 years, as people struggled to understand the history of the ice ages, to improve weather predictions, to understand the factors that determine climate, and much more. Many players, many theories proposed and refined or discarded, as the pieces of the puzzle were worked out and more and more threads of data were accumulated.
It’s a fascinating history. Start with “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart.
Do your homework before calling for a pointless online “debate”
Edward Greisch says
Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or another instrument.]
Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments.
“Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”
chris colose says
gavin– Are you aware of to what extent researchers are using this data to put constraints on cloud feedbacks? It seems that once you’ve accounted for surface albedo changes, the anomaly is SW reflected energy could define the shortwave component of cloud feedback…or one could simply define the SW reflective feedback without any distinction between clouds, ice, etc. Of course, you would have to widen the view outside the tropics for a global perspective.
Even if we use the older data that Lindzen used, it is not immediately self-evident that feedbacks are negative, since you’d need to examine the SW component of the picture as well.
bi -- IJI says
It’s known that Watts is very much a political activist.
It also happens that what Watts is doing isn’t good science… but as others have pointed out, whether one is an activist has no relation to whether one’s doing good science.
In fact, it’s the inactivists who were trying to sell the idea of “science vs. advocacy” in the first place, and we’ll do well to avoid falling into their framing trap.
Wow, you made me do what I never dared to. You made me hit that link for wattsupwiththat. Now you’ll be proud of yourself.
Craig Allen says
My God! You prompted me to have a look at that ‘Whats up with That’ site. That place is a zoo! And someone has spiked the bananas.
John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) says
#15 Mike Strong
The debate has little to do with the science. The science is merely the science, GHG’s, forcing, atmospheric lifetime of Co2, oceanic thermal inertia, etc.
If people can learn the science and see the relevant context of what they are discussing, the arguing will stop on the major components of what is now well known.
Lot’s of things are well known and lots of things are less known. We just need to look at it all more reasonably.
However, if you look through realclimate, you will find that both sides are discussed reasonably in many cases and vociferously from time to time.
In my opinion, realclimate is the best climate science blog. I have not found a better more trustworthy discussion of the science anywhere.
donald moore says
WE have seen in the past the ‘false prophets’ with moveable dates who as the time of their prophecy fulfilment approaches begin to reassess the dates and extend them.Such is modern science based on computer projections which constantly change their minds.The so called evidence that ‘antarctica is stable and not showing signs of melting’then the equally sudden about face ‘now antarctica is melting’bring the word science into disrepute it has become not evidence based but speculative and there needs to be a clear distinction between the two to preserve the integrity of science the words ‘scientists predict’ should not be mentioned.If you do predict do it in your own name not in the name of science
Gavin’s point about advocates in scientists’ clothing is clear and fair in context. But “advocate” has positive connotations in ordinary use (cf. #6). And science-based advocacy does exist. “Lobbyist” may be too specific, “believer” raises thorny side issues.
With apologies to the WW II resistance, might “partisan” work?
(Or would Americans just think of Republicans vs Democrats in Congress?)
#17: Try ‘dysphemism, dysphemistic’ in analogy with ‘to euphemize’.
“Sometimes you need to tell your friends when you think they are wading in shark infested waters”
However, the denialist would tell you off and that there is NO SHARK there. Until he gets bitten by one. Which he may then say was a good thing since now he can join the paralympics or has just lost a huge amount of weight. And now could a doctor please stop the bleeding…
Tom Woods says
I’d never thought I’d be saying this but I think this site has descended to the murky depths.
I used to come here to read up on the latest climate science, however, recently this site has become nothing more than rantings against the latest ‘climate skeptic’ whom the authors of this blog have a gripe with interspersed with the occasional article discussing what I thought this site was really all about ‘climate science from climate scientists’.
I guess if that’s what the authors of this site want their blog to be about, that’s fine; it is their site. But as it currently stands, I see no difference between this site and the daily rantings of skeptic sites and I expected better. I know it must be frustrating to a scientist in the field to see findings and facts misrepresented but it’s equally frustrating to see new science take a back seat to beating a dead horse and I thought we were past that stage.
“Can you folks publish BOTH sides, then debate”
Apologies for taking an extreme example, but Mike would you ask that the case of the paedophile be debated on both PRO and ANTI?
How about pro- and anti- murder? It reduces the surplus population. And if cannibalism is involved, there’s even a reduction in waste.
You never see them argued, do you.
Why the bias???
Would any maths classroom have to include the alternatives to 1+1=2 just because YOU can’t prove that it’s true?
There isn’t a “both sides”. There’s a load of bollocks on one side and the two sides left are in science and pro AGW. Both sides. Take a look at the IPCC reports. In there you see both “this is known” and “this is unknown” where the methods or simulations of climate are well understood and achieve good accuracy and where they are not well understood or even understood to be wrong.
BOTH SIDES are in the IPCC report.
This denialist crap is not a side. It’s a nihilism.
“RC moderator’s non-response to this statement is an example of what I believe earns RC its “advocacy site” label.”
Ah, excellent. wmanny comes up again with the statement and nothing of substance.
a) how is it an example of RC’s advocacy?
b) why is a non-response indicative of RC advocacy?
c) why is the non-response to your post not an example against your thesis?
d) why do you feel the quote you took was wrong?
You’d just rather fling poo like a monkey at a zoo. And about the same level of thought in it too.
Barton Paul Levenson says
How about “partisan?”
“I’d never thought I’d be saying this but I think this site has descended to the murky depths.”
Why’s that Tom? Must the latest skeptic to be listened to with credulity in our hearts just because he’s a skeptic and that thinking “What a numrod” when the idiot shows himself up in his diatribe?
“Also, I am not sure where science would be without two sides of some hypothesis or theory advocating their positions and competing their way to a more settled general understanding.”
Two sides? Why must there be only two?
But where you also make a mistake is in thinking that the denialosphere has a hypothesis. Their closest element to a hypothesis is “AGW isn’t happening”.
Not really a hypothesis unless all you see on the IPCC report is a hypothesis of “AGW is happening”, in which case you need to start thinking.
Ray Ladbury says
Donald M00re @34
News flash, Don: Antarctica is frickin’ big. It’s a whole continent. So East Antarctica can be relatively stable while the WAIS is sliding into the sea. I’m sorry the real world is too complicated to fit into your tiny, little conception of it. However, science (except for psychology) deals with the real world. You can either live in it with us, or you can continue to live in a pretend, simple world. Your choice.
In our discussion about semantics, maybe we should just go with which post was scientific. Chris Colose’s excellent post took into consideration the latest data; Lindzen’s did not. If Lindzen’s post were a manuscript submission, he would have been dinged for not even considering the corrected data – it wasn’t used nor was the reason for its omission justified.
I find it odd that Lindzen’s behavior was excused at WUWT with the explanation that this was just some e-mail food for thought. Misleading information is misleading information.
Ray Ladbury says
Mike Strong wants to debate “both sides” of the climate issue. OK, on the one side, we have 90% of those who are actively publishing in climate science, and over 95% of the most knowledgeable folks on the subject, and on the other…. oh dear…
We have anti-science, as exemplified by Watts et al. We have bad science, as exemplified by certain scientists that seem to pick the dataset by which one best fits their preconceived argument. Now, until recently, I would have left it there, but upon reading Gerlich and Tscheuchner, I find I must also add the category of execrable science/self-parody.
Mike, would you care to let us know what YOU find credible on the anti-science side?
Now we can certainly debate how to handle the threats posed by climate change. There’s plenty to debate there, and sites like Climate Progress are a reasonable place to start. I would suggest that the scientific consensus, however, is a reasonable prerequisite as a starting point.
> …this site has become nothing more than rantings against the latest ‘climate skeptic’ whom the authors of this blog have a gripe…
To one person it’s ranting, to others it’s authoritative deconstruction. To one person it’s having a “gripe”, to others it’s exposing dangerous anti-science idiocy.
> …I see no difference between this site and the daily rantings of skeptic sites…
Really? You can’t tell the difference between science and ignorance, distortion and lies?
So you would prefer that the Deniers are left in peace? Let their output go unchallenged? I’m sure they would just love that….
Ike Solem says
You know, I have to agree with Tom Woods – I thought for sure that realclimate would be interested in looking into the lastest Science paper on aerosols over the Atlantic, and would explain that in some detail.
Also, what about the subtropical drying trend? That’s undiscussed on realclimate as well – instead, we get articles like “Advice for a young climate blogger.”
I actually thought for a second that you really were shutting down, and that’s because the articles have tapered off, right as the leadup to the Copenhagen conference is happening.
There are dozens and dozens of sites that comment on the politics of global warming and the various other issues outside the science – but this is the only one that tends to give reliable scientific analysis – so please, can we get back to that?
There are literally dozens of new papers on climate science, many of which are significant updates to the IPCC FAR – so can’t we cover them?
Another thing: please, climate scientists, don’t get involved in the energy debate without doing the hard work – and that doesn’t mean talking to your colleagues down the hall, because you don’t have any renewable energy scientists in your institutions – so if you’re going to spend all this time going after the WSJ and Cato and Heritage, then you open yourself up to charges of massive hypocrisy – what about the corruption in your own scientific institutes? What is your opinion of NASA and DSCOVR? What is your opinion of the DOE budget? Aren’t those more important questions than whatever Lindzen is doing?
Lindzen can be refuted with one sentence:
Soden et. al 2005 “The Radiative Signature of Upper Tropospheric Moistening”
What do you tell people who want to go into renewable energy research? How many academics are willing to tell the truth – that their cherished academic institutions have become hotbeds of corruption and secrecy as corporate interests have taken over the decision-making process at the top tiers of major universities? Do you really think BP and Exxon and coal-fired utilities and other “public-private partnerships” are the least bit interested in seeing their fossil fuel market disappear due to renewable competition? No, of course not – but academics are so blinkered by institutional loyalty and the demand of “collegiality” that few are willing to speak the obvious truth – fear being the main issue. Fear of losing one’s job, that is.
So, please, stop it. I’ve been meaning to say this for a while, but I am very reluctant to criticize realclimate – but please, the value of your site and the reason for its popular appeal is that it focuses on science, not on propaganda and politics. If you are not going to continue writing the kind of outstanding reviews of scientific articles that we’ve seen in the past, maybe the site really should be shut down.
Don’t let the ankle-biters get under your skin – really, people love the science writing from this site, and they want you to keep it up.
Alan of Oz says
Linzden is the…what’s the word…ah yes…psuedo-skeptic. ;)
Timothy Telleen-Lawton says
The only problem with the given definition of “advocate” is that it implies that the purpose of the advocate is to discover truth, but that the he fails and never changes opinions. I agree with #22 that this definition better fits the word “ideologue”.
An advocate, on the other hand, has chosen a side (hopefully with the open-mind of a scientist) and fights for that side. Like an idealogue, an advocate is more likely to exploit a new piece of data for his purposes rather than continuously re-evaluate his opinion. But to have a positive impact on the world, a good advocate (and almost any good actor) must periodically re-examine the world with a scientist’s mind, before ploughing back into the fight.
Tenney Naumer says
Gee… Anthony snipped me. All I did was say that he had egg on his face — permanently.