Chimp v Harrabin…Monkey v Flunky


Bishop Hill mentions this book: Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

He tells us…

Specialists are considerably worse at making predictions than generalists – is now quite well known, although less so among the general public and media than it should be.

The generalist forecasters were better than the experts because…’ It was more about independence of mind, the ability to constantly recalibrate and to question assumptions, the ability to think in terms of probabilities rather than in black and white terms.’


A comment on Amazon for the book summed it up…..

If you want to understand what will happen in the future, do you ask a distinguished tv pundit, or do you go to a chimp throwing darts at a board? Philip Tetlock’s very readable book explains that you’d be better off with the chimp. Sadly talking heads are mostly good at telling you what is going to happen, and then explaining afterwards why it didn’t – or insisting against all the evidence, that actually, it did.

Harrabin a ‘distinguished tv pundit’ or a climate lobby flunky?


Bishop Hill also notes….

The opposition have called a debate on the Cumbria floods tomorrow, and so the House of Commons Library has issued a briefing paper to MPs. There’s lot to amuse. For example, I read with interest that:

…there is a general understanding that climate change is likely to be linked to increased winter rain in the UK.

I think it’s fair to say that this is complete drivel.

Interestingly, the “Further Reading” section also includes, among other things, a suggestion that MPs might like to take a look at a paper entitled “Floods, Climate Change and Flood Defence Investment”, published by Friends of the Earth.

Which is odd, because the first-named author of the briefing – one Sara Priestley – turns out to have worked at Friends of the Earth before moving to the House of Commons.

What makes me think that MPs’ briefings have something of a bias?

To be fair she only worked there for two months….but it could I suppose indicate where her heart lies….

  • Legal

    Friends of the Earth
    (2 months)





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30 Responses to Chimp v Harrabin…Monkey v Flunky

  1. johnnythefish says:

    …there is a general understanding that climate change is likely to be linked to increased winter rain in the UK.

    Ah, yes, it’s called Lessmoresnow Syndrome – a propensity for bending with the prevailing wind, or rain or whatever the last couple of years’ weather has been doing.

    Also see Barbecuesummer Disorder.


  2. BBC delenda est says:

    Sorry for making you read apologies, again.
    This is a repeat contribution.

    During c19 many people were killed, blinded or otherwise maimed, investigating the properties of matter, chemistry.

    During c19 some physicians in the USA were studying the aetiology of Yellow Fever.
    Some of these young men went South to areas where the disease was rife and they could better study this aetiology.
    It was already believed that Yellow Fever was somehow connected with mosquitoes.
    So some of these young men, let themselves be bitten by mosquitoes, and contracted Yellow Fever.

    They died.

    During the siege of Leningrad in WW2 several botanists, in charge of a seed bank, starved to death rather than eat the contents of the seed bank.

    Real science, real scientists.

    Not left-wing posers in search of an income sucking on the teat of whatever organism they can discover contains milk.


    • Up2snuff says:

      The BBC actually had a R4 programme years ago about the early study of, and fascination with, nuclear materials. They covered how a ‘concensus of scientists’ agreed that handling these fascinating, glowing-in-the-dark materials was quite safe and may even have health benefits. This caught the imagination of the affluent at the time who could not only afford to buy them but were also the ones to hold parties and entertain on a regular basis. They held gatherings where radio-active materials were handled and passed around, glowing in the reduced lighting. When some people started to get burns it was, if I recall correctly, dismissed as exceptional and nothing to worry about.

      When some people started to get sick and die, the scientists had to do a re-think.

      It is funny how the BBC:
      1. Does not remember or even pay any attention to the programmes it itself makes & broadcasts (except perhaps in advance, via endless trails before the News broadcasts when we should be getting comprehensive weather forecasts), and,
      2. Does not learn lessons about science and how speculation moves to theory but then needs testing, observation and proof in support.


  3. Richard Pinder says:

    Most scientists stick to what they learned at University, even when a formula never fit’s the hypothesis in all cases, and on all the planets. In fact not producing answers helps the funding to continue for the most complex scientific papers. But then a scientific paper comes along with a simple formula, producing answers that fit all the observations. And still they cant believe that all that they have learned was bullshit. I know how Piers Corbyn feels.


    • Marvin says:

      Another unevidenced claim coupled with a conspiracy theory. If scientists stuck to what they learned at University there would have been no advances in science in the last 100 years which is demonstrably untrue.


      • Wild says:

        “If scientists stuck to what they learned…there would have been no advances in science…which is demonstrably untrue.”

        He is talking about the reality not the myth. Of course there are advances in science, but most science most of the time is not about radical change, it is, at best, about repeating and (slightly) refining existing interpretations. Scientists are as liable to over-claims as everybody else. They also know a gravy train when they see one. Nor is science of uniformly high quality. Even the great stuff (and there has been some great stiff) has profound problems.


        • Up2snuff says:

          Wild: “Scientists are as liable to over-claims as everybody else.”

          Not if they are good scientists, they are not. I was taught in Physics that good scientists say “We think …”, “It appears that … “, “From our observations so far, …”, etc..

          Bad scientists make definite statements or over-claim.

          This was one of the things about early AGW statements from scientists & enviro-‘mentalists’ that rang alarm bells for me. Add some of the weather and climate claims together with the taxation and other responses of Government and the bells have been ringing continually and louder ever since.


          • G.W.F. says:

            ‘Most scientists stick to what they learned at University’. This makes sense.

            Break down the scientific community into sections and we can see the journeymen scientists who never question what they learnt in university, and they may be the majority. Then we have the brainy guys who are at the end of their careers and, not worrying about future prospects and research grants, start thinking critically, rejecting the crap that the majority hold. Then there are the bright young no hopers, not from the right background perhaps with nothing to lose and are likely to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy: some will remain obscure, but a few will change the game.

            I recall having to attend a graduate recruitment do at a University and was about to present some computer students to executives from a rising computer firm. I was told, no, not computer graduates. They will be so full of the contents of their final year dissertation that they will never break new ground. Can I meet a couple of theology students. OK he might have been stretching the point, but basically he wanted brainy chaps who could be taught to think in new directions within the company, not the university journeymen.


      • Richard Pinder says:

        Dear Marvin, we have already read the attempted rebuttals of the (Unified Theory of Climate, Ned Nikolov & Karl Zeller, 2011) by Dr Spencer and others, but you see, the Theory produces a formula that always produces an answer that is identical to observations, if not then this is either because of (1) A need to recalculate Grey body temperature for certain altitudes due to reflection from clouds. And (2) Due to Geothermal temperatures.

        Just like an attempt to prove Einstein wrong using Newton’s laws would succeed, Spencer and others are using the Arrhenius method to do the same with this theory. To understand this fundamental error in science I would advise people to look at and understand this paper (Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics, Gerhard Gerlich, 2009)


      • johnnythefish says:

        Where’s the ‘conspiracy theory’ Marvin? Most of the posts on here about ‘climate change’ are on the subject of the science, and especially evidence vs the hypothesis – you don’t seem to want to get involved in those discussions for some reason.

        Seems to me you’re just another evidence denier.


    • Sluff says:

      Some interesting points here and below.
      1. I have it on good authority (from one who has succeeded this way) that the way to make the Professor grade at University is to bring in money from outside (sponsors, industry, grants etc) – and thus has little to so with innate ability academically.
      2. Prof Monica Grady – bBBC’s favourite rent-a-quote girl for space things, got a 2:1.
      So ‘academics’ are not any cleverer than you or me; they’ve just gone down a particular career track.
      From my own experience, theories which have to be ‘shoe-horned’ to fit the facts are usually wrong, but have to serve when there is no better theory. Eventually a new piece of evidence suggests a newer theory which does fit all the facts – sometimes these can be quite elegantly simple.
      Personally (and I know I’m in a minority here) whether there is something called global warming or climate change and whether its man made or natural, it makes simple sense to me that chucking out billions of tonnes of CO2 a year cannot be helping. My problem is that only the pro-warming lobby gets a hearing on bBBC, and the vested interests in the ‘global warming’ industry are now so great that they no longer carry credibility.
      So this scientist is rather stuck for sources of good independent, untainted information – on both sides of the argument.


      • Grant says:

        Sluff, of course the other kind of Professors are the ones who are given it as a reward for political work as politicians. They are not academics and have never published an academic paper in their lives. The word has become so devalued it is virtually meaningless.


      • Up2snuff says:

        Sluff: “1. I have it on good authority (from one who has succeeded this way) that the way to make the Professor grade at University is to bring in money from outside (sponsors, industry, grants etc) – and thus has little to so with innate ability academically.”

        As ‘Deep Throat’ advised Woodward & Bernstein in ‘All the President’s Men’: “Follow the money.”


        Always good advice.


      • Up2snuff says:

        Sluff: “Personally (and I know I’m in a minority here) whether there is something called global warming or climate change and whether its man made or natural, it makes simple sense to me that chucking out billions of tonnes of CO2 a year cannot be helping.”

        I wholeheartedly agree, on health grounds and economic grounds especially. Which adds this puzzle to the whole AGW/CC thing: why has Government not taken easy action on some things that would help cut CO2 emissions and why has it done other things that actually exacerbate CO2 emissions?

        Obviously, the fact that their tax provisions in the name of AGW/CC make it in Government/Treasury interests to keep emissions high and the taxes rolling in. That is one explanation, we are back to ‘Follow the Money’ there. Sheer incompetence may be another. Is it Prof. John Curtice, one of the BBC’s favourite psephologists, that holds the view that 20th century UK government has largely been incompetent compared to previous centuries? Can’t find at present the book I thought he had written but perhaps I’m thinking of someone else.

        Then there’s the obvious explanation that gets the conspiracy theorists going: the Governments have all been told in confidence the science is rubbish and have other motives behind AGW/CC. New world order, one world government, lining the pockets of favoured individuals & corporations … and blah, blah.

        What is certain, we could do a lot of simple, relatively low cost things to cut CO2, nox and methane emissions but do not. Time for change?


        • johnnythefish says:

          Sluff: “Personally (and I know I’m in a minority here) whether there is something called global warming or climate change and whether its man made or natural, it makes simple sense to me that chucking out billions of tonnes of CO2 a year cannot be helping.”

          I wholeheartedly agree, on health grounds and economic grounds especially.

          Have a read of this:

          Due to his immense specialized knowledge and his methodical severity Ernst very promptly noticed numerous inconsistencies in the statements of the Intergovernmental Penal on Climate Change IPCC. He considered the warming of the earth’s atmosphere as a result of a rise of the carbon dioxide content of the air of approximately 0.03 to 0.04 percent as impossible.

          And this:

          A new paper published in the Open Journal of Atmospheric and Climate Change by renowned professor of physics and expert on spectroscopy Dr. Hermann Harde finds that climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 levels is only about [0.6C], about 7 times less than the IPCC claims, but in line with many other published low estimates of climate sensitivity.

          By the way, why should you think an increase in atmospheric CO2 should cause a health problem?


  4. soyelcaminodelfuturo says:

    Can some of the longer standing residents please enlighten me as to this Marvin sort’s agenda?


    • Demon says:

      Recent name, old tactics. Quite predictabe really – rarely makes a point worth discussing. Paid by the taxpayer, via the BBC, to diss sites, like this, that are frequented by people with open minds.


    • Richard Pinder says:

      I wonder if Marvin could tell me the error in this paper (Greenhouse effect in semi-transparent planetary atmospheres, Ferenc M. Miskolczi, 2007) . And why Miskolczi must have given up on Venus?

      I believe that its also possible to prove that Black is White. As long as the scientific paper is big and complex enough to disguise an error.


    • Grant says:

      As Marvin Gaye and Lee Marvin are no longer with us, it could only be that well-known scientist, Hank Marvin.


  5. AceFlyingPig says:

    Shocking that people on this site are still questioning the scientific consensus that Global warming is happening. The evidence is incontrovertible and all around us. I have been purchasing Cadburys Fruit and Nut chocolate for 50 years and can say without fear of contradiction that chocolate bars are definitely melting. Their mass is significantly smaller than historic records document, and their overall thickness has reduced by fifty percent. The removal of all foil wrappers that enclosed most types of chocolate bars have clearly exacerbated this problem as they no longer reflect the sun when discarded at the roadside or in refuse tips. I used to regularly see Polar Bears standing on a clear cube. Not a sight of them in the last couple of years. Clearly the Foxes Glacier has completely melted away. The Kit Kat Bar chart clearly forecasts that if temperatures continue to rise at this rate they will be looking at a three bar, or in the worst case, a two fingered scenario.


    • johnnythefish says:

      Excellent, and makes loads more sense than the IPCC ‘Summary for Policymakers’.


  6. G.W.F. says:

    I am pleased that the Paris agreement has brought an end to global warming, and that end of the evils attributed to it, such as terrorism from the Middle East, Civil Wars in Africa, the decline of so many species from polar bear to butterflies, the melting ice caps, rivers running dry, droughts, floods, declining Guardian sales, and so much more. I am grateful that Obama, Prince Charles, the Pope, Emma Thompson, Bono, Russell Brand, Banky Moon, Cameron and the Labour Party, every Trotskiest Party, the Anarchists, Greens, and of course Green Peas and the Palestinians, who have steadfastly defended our planet from capitalist and zionist neo liberal exploitation.


  7. Edward says:

    Alan, there’s a huge difference between predicting we will be wearing silver space-suits by 1970, and that the sun will run out of fuel in about 5 billion years time.

    If you deny that the sun will die in the future then read no more. I had a similar conversation at work with a Christian Scientist who countered my argument (in favour of evolutionary theory) with the claim that the future could not be predicted scientifically, therefore scientific study in reverse (using the same methodology to predict past events) was meaningless and casts doubts on the scientific assumption that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. (For the record, he believes the earth is only @ 6,000 years old!)


  8. Wild says:

    “he believes the earth is only @ 6,000 years old.”

    If you seek to support your claims by citing an argument you had with somebody who believes the Earth to be 6000 years old that tells you more about you than you seem to realise.