Blind Numbers

October 26, 2009

I found this approach to extracting climate politics out of the data relatively interesting:

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

“If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect,” said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

Yet the idea that things are cooling has been repeated in opinion columns, a BBC news story posted on the Drudge Report and in a new book by the authors of the best-seller “Freakonomics.” Last week, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 57 percent of Americans now believe there is strong scientific evidence for global warming, down from 77 percent in 2006.

I’d be curious to hear more about the methodology. Joe Romm and DeSmogBlog have more to say.


  1. It does look like an interesting approach.

    The Borenstein article has the feel of making a straw man argument, in that most of the recent furore was over an article that talked about there having been no increase in recent years, rather than cooling. I’m not therefore terribly impressed by the refuting of an argument that wasn’t made.

    The fact that Seth Borenstein didn’t illustrate his article with a graph is unfortunate.

  2. It is an interesting idea. I (shameless plug: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/10/ap_impact_statisticians_reject.php) wondered if this was really a blind test, as I thought any reasonable person could be expected to recognise the data series (on second thoughts, I thought it would be better to reverse the series and subtract an arbitrary trend first to disguise it). SB says only 1 out of 4 recognised it.

  3. Eli, OTOH, has enough experience of the real world, aka his family, to realize that what Wm assumes ain’t.

  4. […] Most of the scientific blog community has set to demonstrating the falsity of Will’s claims by appealing to trend lines, offering five million objection-specific responses, or pointing out Will’s supposed similarity to Alfalfa. (Alfalfa? Really? Sherman is a far better match.) Journalists have done as much as well. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: