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>What it means to explain adjustments

2009 December 7 Leave a comment

>After the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition released it’s paper, “Are we feeling warmer yet?” there was much discussion around the necessity of adjusting data. Focus was on the Wellington data though, as I pointed out, there is no overlap between Thorndon and other sites given. So adjusting to a nearby site of the same elevation, while possibly reasonable, can be questioned: busy international airport, large amounts of asphalt (especially when considering the multi-decadal time difference), urbanisation effects. Even disregarding that Anthony Watts gives Kelburn a rating of CRN=4.

This is an issue of the legitimacy of specific adjustments. The paper above acknowledges the figures are adjusted, they question why,

At a minimum, the adjustments made to the official NZ temperature record must be made public.

Treadgold had also said,

The real issue is that adjustments were made by NIWA and not acknowledged publicly on their website….

NIWA responded initially to the paper with this article and referencing the same Wellington data. They also stated concerning the temperature adjustments (corrections) (as I mentioned in my earlier post),

NIWA climate scientists have previously explained to members of the Coalition why such corrections must be made.

NIWA have also expanded their explanation displaying the Wellington graphs previously shown by Gareth Renowden (as per my earlier post).

NIWA have also released their own graph from raw data. They used sites that have not been shifted since 1930.

I am not certain why they used a trend line without also including a smoothed line like they had for their earlier graph.

NIWA give more justification that New Zealand temperature is rising here. They mention several confirmatory records that show the temperature rise over the decades. And they refute several claims by the NZ Climate Science Coalition, specifically NIWA claims that the Coalition have had access to:

  1. the raw data
  2. the adjusted data (anomalies)
  3. information needed to identify the adjustments made by Dr Salinger
  4. information needed to develop their own adjustments.

The Coalition confirm that the raw data is available and they stated that in the original paper. The other 3 claims are not so clear. An email sent to the Coalition said that the adjusted (corrected) data was held by Salinger,

Dr Jim Salinger maintains the “corrected” dataset and is the best person to talk to you about it.

But the Coalition deny receiving all the corrected data despite requests for it. Further, the 7 sites labelled on the data they received differed from the 7 sites that were specified in other correspondence from NIWA. And even if they had the information to identify the adjustments (item 3 above), they do not have the reasoning as to why this was done. This also makes it difficult to do item 4. When the Coalition analyses the Hokitika data they see no good reason as to why it is adjusted as it has been. Wellington is the example that is repeatedly mentioned. What of Hokitika and the other 5 stations?

Which raises the issue of the post title. What the Coalition want, and what NIWA should have had available on their site before any requests were made, is both the raw data and the adjusted data, and the explanation of the adjustment. NIWA offer as their explanation this paper (doi:10.1002/joc.3370130807).

I will return to this paper tomorrow but the response from NIWA misses the point. It is not a methodology or technique of temperature adjustment the Coalition is asking for. It is why the adjustments were made for every adjustment.

  • Adjustment A was made in this data set because of a site change. And the reason for this amount of change is because we took sites 1, 2 and 3 into account.
  • Adjustment B was made because of a change in thermometer.
  • Adjustment C was made to take into account the urban heat island effect.

One can mention the methodology as well if helpful,

  • Adjustment… following the method of Smith for isolated stations.

It is then one can reproduce the adjusted data and discuss the merits of each adjustment.

  • What about sites 4 and 5, they would attenuate the data by 0.1 °C.
  • You haven’t allowed for wind effects which are relevant before 1965 because…
  • Smith was developed for continents and has not been validated for temperate islands, the method of Jones is more appropriate.

The when and why is needed so that this discussion can be had.

Categories: clarity, climate change

>Bypassing the argument thru definition

2009 September 21 54 comments

>Choosing one’s terms and labels may be an effective rhetorical technique; albeit frequently a dishonest one. Here are few examples that I find irritating.

Pro abortion as pro-choice

I have concerns with terms used on both sides of this debate, but this the more insidious. It is describing the issue in terms of freedom, but opponents to abortion are by no means anti-freedom. They see the issue as one of murder. I don’t hear “pro-choice” people advocating for the freedom of men to murder adults, or steal property. The pro-freedom position is reasonably described as libertarian. It is true many libertarians are “pro-choice” but this is not universal with some libertarians arguing against abortion. More relevant however is the position “pro-choice” people take otherwise, and this is commonly a socialist leaning position, hardly a paragon of choice or freedom. I would not be surprised to learn that opponents of abortion have a stronger commitment to choice outside the abortion debate.

I don’t particularly like the term “pro-life” either. The debate is about whether a fetus is living in a sense that confers the fetus natural rights. Although I hold this position, many abortion advocates disagree with it. As such they could argue they are pro-life and consistent by opposing capital punishment. I think it preferable to use accurate unloaded terms such as “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion.”

Science as methodological naturalism

Science does not need to be defined this way and historically it was not. While it may seem somewhat reasonable on the surface, it fails on 2 counts. The meaning and reason for the term “methodological naturalism” is that one can not invoke the supernatural as an explanation, rather science seeks natural explanations for various phenomena. Given that operational science was invented by supernaturalists whose concept of God (immutable) gave them reason to think the world was orderly and thus amenable to repeated observation with an expectation of identical findings, it is uncertain why a definition using “naturalism” needs to be invoked centuries later.

It fails because it does not apply to historical science which has no such non-supernatural limitations yet historical science is considered part of the broader concept of science. And it fails because it contains a philosophical term: Naturalism has a range of claims which are not derived from science, nor does science intrinsically favour naturalism.

Such a term can lead to the claim that science has disproved God. But analysis of this claim will show it to be circular. God is excluded by definition, and any thesis sans God is deemed “scientifically” preferable, even if untrue.

Gender neutral as gender accurate translation

There is debate about how to best translate various Greek words into English in Bible translation. Does one translate masculine pronouns such as “he” inclusively or specifically? Does the Greek word anthropos mean “person” or “man” with generic connotations at times? I do not intend to discuss the merits of both arguments, just note that the inclusive school uses the term “gender accurate” to describe their theory. They argue that an inclusive view is intended by biblical authors, thus improved accuracy. One problem is that the term “accurate” is more synonymous with “precision” than “intention”. The other problem, of course, is that the debate is around which translation theory is the most accurate. Using a term as part of your definition, then claiming something is thus, by definition—often implicitly—resolves nothing.

Suggestion

The reason this annoys me is that the terms are deliberately chosen. Their inventors are not so much trying to frame the debate as circumvent it. I find it disingenuous.

This is not to suggest choosing various terms is intrinsically dishonest. If a different term brings clarity, or is neutral, or both, then it may be preferable.

Sometimes one should consider terms used by his opponents. While the adoption of labels from the opposition is not compulsory, they may sometimes be accurate. Another option is to use historical terms.

>Why doesn't the Bible address X?

2009 July 3 4 comments

>A not infrequent complaint raised by theism sceptics is that the Bible does not address many issues the sceptics think it should address; if indeed the Bible is a divine book and not merely a human one.

There are several problems with this demand

  1. It assumes the critic’s concerns are the same as God’s
  2. It assumes the Bible is written for the sceptical
  3. It assumes that God should dictate Scripture rather than use his servants to author it
  4. It ignores that Scripture was written into a culture
  5. It ignores what is contained within Scripture
  6. It ignores that the issues may be addressed indirectly
  7. It places an unreasonable burden on the size of the resultant text
  8. It suggests that if such was included the sceptic would be convinced of the truth of the Bible

Whose concern is important?

To ask that the Bible address X, Y, or Z assumes that these are the things God is most interested in recording for his people. The Bible is diverse, though there are several common themes. A major theme is right relationship with God. There is a large amount of material discussing individuals and nations in right and wrong relationship with God and the consequences of such. God is forever calling people to himself and rebuking them for going their own way. The Bible suggests that the biggest problem in men following God is not evidential, rather wilful. All Jericho were in fear of Yahweh after reports of his exploits, yet only Rahab submitted to him.

Related to this theme is reconciliation, especially the focus on God coming to earth as a man to teach us God’s way, to receive our punishment, and to establish a kingdom. Thus, much of Scripture builds up to this event, describes this event, and discusses the consequences of this event.

Who was the Bible written for?

The Bible has information that can be used to defend the truth of God and to rebuke the mocker; that is, it does have apologetic value. However the intended audience includes, and is probably predominantly, those who belong to God’s kingdom. At the time of the Old Testament that was Israel (though admittedly this included apostate Israel). In the New Testament the gospel of Luke (and Acts) are addressed to Theophilus (Friend of God). The letters are all addressed to individual Christians or churches. The biblical “inadequacies” as claimed by the sceptical may be of less concern to believers.

The Bible was written by God’s servants

Scripture, in the main, is not dictated by God. Thus there is freedom for the authors to write in their own style. Christians believe God had the authors include what God wanted recorded. Many also claim that God prevented them from writing error. This at least allows for difficulties in reconciling parallel passages, none of which contain exhaustive information.

The Bible was written into specific cultures

This fact has been misused to limit the scope biblical injunctions. Nevertheless, the authors were writing to the people who lived and thought a common culture. They addressed issues that were pertinent to the people around them. This includes who they perceived as their friends and enemies at the time. Laws related (in part) to their way of life, the types of houses they lived in, the foods they ate. The Israelites were an agrarian society. Many of the specific issues we face in the 21st century were non-existent in ancient Israel, and some of them would have been barely comprehensible. However most issues faced by diverse nationalities have some degree of commonality. Truly new concepts, such as intellectual property, are not that common. To request the Bible address specifically, issues that post-date its completion is anachronistic. The Bible may do so if God wishes, but to complain of these types of deficiencies is unreasonable.

What does the Bible discuss?

The fact is, the Bible does discuss a wide range of issues. There may be questions we have that it is difficult to clearly answer from biblical considerations, but what of that which the Bible does tell us? It tells us a lot about God, a lot about us. It tells us we are broken. It tells us our relationship with God is broken, and better, how to fix it. It tells us how to treat others. It teaches about relationships with one’s spouse and with one’s children. It tells us about honesty in business relationships. It tells us to concern ourselves with the less fortunate.

There is much we are shown about in the Bible. Is the concern about what is lacking actually about us not liking what is not lacking?

The indirect teaching of Scripture

It is not that difficult to apply what the Bible says within an ancient culture to our modern one. Is it really that hard? to go from “build a parapet around the edge of your [flat] roof” to “build a fence around your swimming pool.” Does one really think that if God opposes getting intoxicated with wine that he approves of getting intoxicated with marijuana? Many of the questions we have in our modern technological age are addressed indirectly through Scripture.

How big do we want our Bible?

It is difficult for a finite text to cover all the questions that man is capable of asking. The amount of information now known to man is vast, too much for any one person to know. Yet there are questions I can ask (that are intrinsically answerable) and not one man on earth currently knows the answer. If the Bible addressed in detail the specific answer, along with an underlying explanation of the assumptions of the questioner, of every question raised by a bibliosceptic its size would be enormous, not to mention unsustainable for the ancient scribes. For a hand-written book, the Bible is already pretty large. And even many Christians have not read it thru. How does one gain the overall themes of a book that would take a lifetime to read thru once?

Would a different text alter the sceptic’s position?

My considered view is that the complaint of biblical deficiencies is an empty one. Inclusion of specific issues would only mean that different deficiencies would be raised.

As mentioned above, the problem, as the Bible sees it, is not one of knowledge; rather it is one of the will. Rahab chose to worship Yahweh. Many of those who would be willing to submit to Christ have enough information to evaluate him. If someone has a real stumbling block then it is worth addressing it with him. But there is enough clarity in Scripture for those whose hearts are good soil, and there is enough concealment for the mocker to remain sceptical.

Categories: apologetics, Bible, clarity