The thread to end all threads – Judith Curry vs. Gavin Schmidt

23 Feb

Yesterday Judith Curry posted an article regarding the controversial ‘hide the decline’ statement made in the climategate emails. Curry explained why she felt that some scientists were being dishonest and misleading. Many of the following comments focused on her using the term dishonest, but I think the real important quote is here:

I infer then that there is something in the IPCC process or the authors’ interpretation of the IPCC process (i.e. don’t dilute the message) that corrupted the scientists into deleting the adverse data in these diagrams.

In otherwords she feels that the IPCC pressured scientists to present a uniform message, and as a result data was distorted and people were mislead. I don’t know exactly what time this was posted, but the first comment was at 7:06pm. There were 5 or 6 comments in the next 25 minutes. A fairly typical blog post.

Then Gavin dropped in.

That’s right, Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate fame posted the following comment (excerpted) at 7:31pm:

You have gone significantly over the line with this post. Accusations of dishonesty are way beyond a difference of opinion on how a graph should be displayed….

…But to ascribe a difference of opinion to dishonesty is to remove yourself from any sensible discussion on the topic. Perhaps if I was to find a graph in one of your papers which I thought didn’t show some aspect of the data I was interested in, and then accuse you of dishonesty? Would you react well to that? This is exactly the same.

How can you claim to be building bridges, when you are so busy burning them?

Predictably, the threads exploded with comments. In less then 24 hours, there are nearly one thousand comments. Most were either comments supporting Curry or Schmidt, but Curry and Schmidt went back and forth themselves for hours. A multitude of other bloggers joined the fray: Tallbloke, Jeff Id, Bart, Bishop Hill, FordPrefect, Shub Niggurath, Deep Climate, and dozens of less famous as well. Even some scientists showed up, Pielke Sr. commented and so did Richard Tol.

If you can spend a solid hour or two there are some interesting comments in the threads. Basically, here is how the Curry vs. Schmidt exchange ended (if it is ended). Again, this is an excerpt of a Gavin post:

Your guns-a-blazing, caution-to-the-winds accusations of malfeasance and misconduct, like Steve McIntyre’s before you, are simply poison to grown-up discussions of real issues. You appear to be well aware of that, and yet continue to indulge in it – even to the point of touting for partisan comments. One can therefore safely conclude that you are not actually interested in grown-up discussions of real issues. So be it.

And Curry eventually replied with this:

The graph was dishonest. If you like, you can infer backwards from that what actions led to the graph and who did them. I did not speculate on that, nor will I, other than to wonder about the role of the whole IPCC process in this.

And then this:

I’m discussing really big issues on this blog, with grownups (well, most of them are grownups). These may not be issues that you want to discuss, and the discussions may not be going in the direction that you would like to see them go. You can pretend that these discussions aren’t occurring, or you condemn them, or you can participate in them. Your choice.

That was about noon today. Gavin didn’t respond after that.

I’m not sure what lesson to take away from all this. Curry claims that she didn’t expect to create a furor, but once Gavin posted at her blog she went to WUWT and left a comment mentioning that Gavin was on her blog. I can understand why she would want these issues to be brought up and resolved, but bringing more attention to Gavin’s presence from a well established skeptic’s blog may not have been the best idea for provoking a real dialogue.

As for Gavin, he typically denied any problems at all and basically just insulted people. I don’t know why he showed up other than to tell Curry she had “gone significantly over the line“. As one commenter noted, Gavin’s comments wouldn’t have made it through moderation at RealClimate, which is probably true.

I’m all for unmoderated discussion, but so far there has been 1,000 comments worth of it, nothing has been resolved, and only name-calling has resulted. I’m guessing Gavin wished he hadn’t stopped by and Curry was wishing she hadn’t brought up the issue at all. Let’s see if anything positive comes from this in the long run.


Because of the massive traffic, Curry has created a Part II at about 2:15pm or so today. It has about 150 comments so far, with no showing from Gavin. Again, the discussion isn’t really centering about the science of ‘hide the decline’ but the comments of Curry and Gavin and how they relate to honesty in science.



Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “The thread to end all threads – Judith Curry vs. Gavin Schmidt

  1. Donna Laframboise

    February 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Thank you, thank you. I’m working hard on my book & don’t have time to do all that reading at the moment.

    Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I appreciate it.

  2. correction

    February 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I think you mean Pielke Sr. not Jr.

  3. Sam

    February 24, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Thanks. Yes, it was Sr.

  4. Otter

    March 9, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Yet gavin and his ilk accuse Realists of being dishonest every day.


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