Westword on Bill Gray

June 28th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Here is a pretty thoughtful article on Bill Gray and a number of familiar folks in the hurricane debate.

11 Responses to “Westword on Bill Gray”

  1. Carl Christensen Says:

    It seems like the same old “crocodile tears” from Gray. I never see pro-AGW scientists (and they far outnumber the skeptics, n’est-ce pas?) “profiled” in so many pieces. Where are the pieces on Steven Scheider, Isaac Held, etc? But you see Lindzen & Gray in the media all the time whining that “they aren’t getting attention” — it’s too hilarious!

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  3. Chris Weaver Says:

    Hi Roger,

    I read the article, and it is indeed interesting and pretty nuanced.

    Question – do you find valid the view that Gray is at fault because he’s criticizing the new peer-reviewed work on hurricanes and global warming without contributing peer-reviewed work on his own position? Or do you think his past work and lifetime of expertise should privilege his voice in this debate regardless of any new contribution?

    Or is this framing not nuanced enough …

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  5. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Hi Chris- Yes and yes;-)

    Gray would be far, far more credible if he had peer reviewed work backing up his latest claims. Yes, he has by his record earned the right to our respect. It is possible to hold both these views at once? I think so. The same BTW goes for Lovelock, etc.


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  7. Andrew Dessler Says:

    Chris and Roger-

    I have to disagree w/ Roger. Reputation matters in science, but not in this way. If a scientist with a good reputation reports a result in the literature, I’m apt to think, “I know he does good work, so it’s probably right.” Conversely, if I see a result from someone I know does shoddy work, I’m apt to think, “That’s interesting, but I’ll believe it when I see this replicated.”

    Bill Gray, on the other hand, not only does not publish in the literature, he doesn’t even really have a scientific argument. The last talk I saw him give, supposedly on the water vapor feedback, was a science-free 60-minute rant about how much he hates modellers and NOAA. It was truly unbelievable. There was no actual discussion of the water vapor feedback, nor any other science.

    I’ve never personally met him, and I’m sure he’s a really swell guy if you get to know him, but until he engages in the “scientific process” of research and peer review, I believe he should be ignored by the scientific community — which is basically what’s happening.


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  9. Chris Weaver Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I think it’s certainly true that he’s been radicalized by some combination of his own ornery nature and the marginalization of his views when they run up against the vocal mainstream of the AGW community. As a result, he’s undoubtedly behaved inappropriately (we’ll leave aside for the moment whether anyone else has or hasn’t too).

    For me though, the tragedy is that I don’t believe he necessarily had to become radicalized. That it’s come to this is a product of the politicization of the science. Now that we’ve arrived at this point, being human, he’s exhibiting many very human traits (stubbornness, lashing out, conflating the personal and professional as his opponents are also doing, irrationality, etc. etc.).

    So, the marginalization and radicalization of Bill Gray is kind of a cautionary tale about what happens when you allow scientization of politics and politicization of science.

    Someone should write an paper about it …

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  11. Mark Bahner Says:

    “The same BTW goes for Lovelock, etc.”

    Has Bill Gray said or written anything that even approaches in ridiculousness what James Lovelock has written?

    “We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.”

    “We are in a fool’s climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”


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  13. Jim Clarke Says:

    I agree with Roger that Bill Gray needs to publish his ideas on climate change and subject them to peer review if we are to consider them, but he doesn’t need to publish his own ideas to point out the problems with the other theories. His knowledge and experience more than qualify him to be a respected critic.

    There are several scientists who have refused to appear on panels with Bill Gray. They claim it is because of Bill’s tendency to ‘get personal’ and call them names. The interesting thing is that Bill Gray has also been subjected to personal attacks by some of these same people, yet doesn’t have any problem appearing with them to discuss anthroprogenic global warming.

    Perhaps they are more afraid of the weaknesses in their arguments that Professor Gray will point out than his ‘colorful’ personality!

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  15. Steve Bloom Says:

    For anyone who wants the details on what’s wrong with Gray’s THC fantasy, see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/gray-on-agw/#more-295 . Contrary to Roger’s implication above, it’s not an idea that’s amenable to being backed up by peer-reviewed work.

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  17. McCall Says:

    That is an interesting and perhaps revealing citation in your post, Mr. Bloom. Another RC hit thread (your habitual source reference) — this one too, a distasteful mixture of science, adhom, and overt nastiness, unsubtle even in stating their punch line in the title, “… muddy thinking,” perhaps not trusting their audience to decide for themselves?

    And on the other side we might cite another unfortunately titled thread in this debate: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=419
    Both fine examples of the “Law of Group Polarization,” don’t you think?” Oh well, at least we can now decide who can engage in civil discourse; the second thread at least had the courtesy of using a question mark in their title.

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  19. Steve Bloom Says:

    Yes, McCall, the snarks do have a tendency to fly in Bill Gray’s vicinity. The presence or absence of snarks says nothing about the validity of the scientific criticsm of Gray’s ideas, however, and the latter is the reason I made the link. It would have been nice to point to a peer-reviewed exchange instead, but Gray’s ideas on this subject are not of a quality to pass peer review. It’s perhaps worth noting that he’s having these public fights with people who are considered the leaders of his own field, and who also held him in great esteem up until a few years ago.

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  21. Steve Hemphill Says:

    Steve B illustrates why he thinks his favorite source is better than Bill Gray. Bill’s results are grounded in proven accuracy, and Realclimate’s are based on models (which they mistakenly refer to as “data”) and other simplistic analyses, combined with an incestuous peer review system.

    Ground Control to Major Tom…