Climategate 3.0: Tom Wigley says Naomi Oreskes’ work is ‘useless’?

Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes claimed in a 2004 study that 75% of published studies supported “the consensus” while the remainder expressed no view.


date: Thu, 12 Nov 2009 14:16:40 -0700
from: Tom Wigley
subject: Re: [Fwd: Your Submission]
to: Phil Jones


This is weird. I used Web of Knowledge, “create citation report”, and
added 1999 thru 2009 numbers. Can’t do you becoz of the too many PDJs

Here are 3 results …

Kevin Trenberth, 9049
Me, 5523
Ben, 2407

The max on their list has only 3365 cites over this period.

Analyses like these by people who don’t know the field are useless.
A good example is Naomi Oreskes work.


14 thoughts on “Climategate 3.0: Tom Wigley says Naomi Oreskes’ work is ‘useless’?”

  1. Science is based on hypothesis, research, testing and validation or falsification. When it’s easy, that’s what happens.
    Very often science is more difficult than that. The hypothesis may be complex, the data ambiguous, the results tantalizing but not conclusive.
    When experienced scientists with a track record of valid results support a theory, such as evolution or the germ theory of infection, their combined numbers and experience do give credence to the theory. They could all be wrong, perhaps, but their agreement does not make them wrong and it’s usually a good guide.
    But of course not always. For years radium was considered harmless or even beneficial when ingested. The oxalic acid in tomatoes was thought by some to be highly toxic to humans.
    In terms of Ms. Oreskes’ work, it sounds like she did a data dredge to support the position she wanted in the first place. Many have seen what they wanted to find in a data dredge. Her particular data dredge — seeking a consensus in an area where consensus is hard to find — might be especially egregious.

  2. Just a nitpick: The oxalic acid in tomatoes and other vegetables is not exactly toxic, but it is kinda harmful for about 7% of the US population that are lacking a kidney stone inhibitor. In more inbred populations, the incidence almost reaches Mendelian proportions — above 20% in one Thai province studied.

    Citric acid does the same thing — binds calcium.

  3. Not knowing Naomi personally (or professionally) or what “field” she “works” in but my guess is Tom knows people.

  4. Naomi Oreskes’ actual qualification is as a “science historian” but what her work turned out to be is that basically she’s another cog in the character assassination wheel claiming skeptic climate scientists are on the payroll of ‘big coal & oil’. What has me puzzled in my narrow digs into the origins of the accusation is exactly how she got involved in it, and why she made a cryptic reference to incriminating documents ‘indicting’ skeptics as being stored in AMS archives. I’m still looking for an AMS member to help me unravel that little mystery.

  5. I don’t think you can interpret it this way by any stretch (unless it is an inside-out stretch). The last statement adds an example to the previous statement. So it is a good example of a bad thing. Or a useless thing, to be exact. He did not attach “good” to “analyses”, he attached it to “example”.

  6. I can’t imagine any reasonable person having the same interpretation as you claim to have. Your interpretation seems to me to be equivalent to a defense attorney representing his client.

  7. Possibly. But the context here indicates that the omission of “But” is unlikely. Likely omissions are those that can be implied from context. If “But” were there, it would contradict the context. Granted, people do omit things, they do say or wright things opposite in meaning to what they intend to say, but they don’t do that as a matter of course.

  8. I put a comment at WUWT (currently in moderation) before noticing that you were credited. So with apologies for cross-posting, I’ll put a similar comment here.

    Tom Wigley’s email seems to refer to this list ‘Top 20 Climate Authors’ published in Nov 2009 (based on my search for the 3365 citations).

    Wigley seems to be querying the ranking as Web of Science shows that he, Trenberth and Ben (Santer?) all have more citations over the period.

    Perhaps they did not put the words ‘climate change’ or ‘global warm’ into enough of their titles and abstracts! (see methods

    I can’t see who undertook the 2009 study. I suspect that Wigley’s comment about Oreskes was probably just as an example of another study that tries to identify scientists based only on a keyword search – I’d agree with him that this is ‘useless’.

    (my first comment seemed to disappear – if this double posts, please delete one!)

  9. It sound like some folks here are not familiar with Professor Naomi Oreskes she is “an American historian of science, and Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego.
    “She has worked on studies of geophysics, environmental issues such as global warming, and the history of science. In 2010, Oreskes co-authored Merchants of Doubt which identified some parallels between the climate change debate and earlier public controversies.” (WIKI)

    YouTube has a number of talks she’s given, here are two:
    The American Denial of Global Warming – Perspectives on Ocean Science
    December 2007

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Naomi Oreskes: “Merchants of Doubt”
    June 27, 2011

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