Monday, September 10, 2012

JoNova goes nova about a judgment she hasn't read

First, the decision itself. The NZ High Court decided, last week, that it wasn’t going to intervene in science by ordering a review of NIWA’s release of climate data. The whole kit-and-caboodle can be found here.

The case was brought by the “New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust”, with its witnesses to be Dr Bob Carter, Bob Dederkind and Terry Dunleavy. They wanted to convince the court that NIWA should not have released the data because it contained errors. (During proceedings, Dr Carter agreed that the way to deal with scientific error was to publish a counter-paper, so there seems to be at least a small contradiction in his involvement in the case).

Essentially, the court decided not to intervene – that is, not to order a judicial review into NIWA’s publication of the data – because two of the expert witnesses didn’t qualify as experts, and that even with Dr Carter’s evidence, it couldn’t find any reason to suppose that NIWA had done anything wrong.

However, the decision to exclude Dederkind and Dunleavy’s evidence has outraged JoNova:

“Why did the skeptics lose? According to the news report, it was not because NIWA provided good answers, or found the missing data, but because the skeptics didn’t have “authority” to question it.”


“if “authority” is determined not by behavior, logic or quality of reasoning, but simply by government decree, then the court becomes a de facto arm of the government — because only people who are funded by the government (all “climate scientists” are funded by government) can give evidence that the court recognizes.”

Wrong on both counts.

The question wasn’t a lack of “authority”: the High Court found that Dunleavy and Dederkind didn’t meet the definition of “expert” that’s required – not be some “government decree”, but by the NZ High Court’s rules of evidence as they relate to expert witnesses.

The key rule is that any expert witness must “state the issues the evidence of the expert witness addresses and that the evidence is within the expert’s area of expertise” (my emphasis).

Dunleavy is clearly out of his depth as an expert witness: he’s a former journalist with no claim to have climate science expertise.

The refusal to admit Dedekind as an expert witness is arguably a different question: he claimed expertise as a computer modeler with some statistical ability; the court’s decision was that his “general” knowledge of statistics was insufficient for him to offer evidence in this particular case.

Note that the Court still addresses Mr Dedekind’s complaints – there are repeated references to him throughout the judgment – however, it declined to hear him as an expert witness.

Dr Carter, on the other hand, was admitted as an expert. There are several delicious discussions in the judgment that are worth digging out.

But here’s the kicker: JoNova’s complaint that there’s some government fiat – essentially a brand-new conspiracy to shut out one set of voices and listen only to “government funded” witnesses - is made without her bothering to read the judgment.

As she says: “Perhaps the judgement is quite different from what the NZ Business Review reported, but unless it is, the outcome had nothing to do with science”.

Had she read the judgment, she would have found an extensive discussion of the two non-experts’ complaints about NIWA data, and why the court decided how it did. But reading the judgment would upset the conspiracist apple-cart.

1 comment:

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