Wednesday, October 11, 2006


What's in an Ellipsis

Whenever I see a posted article with ellipsis, I always wonder what got cut out. Was it something that was irrelevant, or was it something that didn’t serve the point that the person doing the quoting was making? Today I have a perfect example of a dishonest use of ellipsis courtesy of, who else, Unreliapundit.

He’s written an article on how, “anthropogenic global-warming is bunk,” supposedly supported by this article. Here are some of his quotes:

“The Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle ... shifts in Earth's pattern of movement are relatively minor compared with those of other planets. But they can greatly influence the amount of radiation -- heat and light -- which Earth receives from the Sun. ... Astronomical impact "provides a crucial missing piece in the puzzle" of regular species turnover, it says.”

Note the first bolded ellipsis. What got left out? The cycle period of these changes. Here’s some of the unredacted passage:

The Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle: it is slightly elliptical, and the ellipticality itself goes through cycles of change that span roughly 100,000 and 400,000 years.
Its axis, likewise, is not perfectly perpendicular but has a slight wobble, rather like a poorly-balanced child's top, which goes through cycles of 21,000 years.
In addition, the axis, as schoolbooks tell us, is also tilted, and this tilt also varies in a cycle of 41,000 years.
These three shifts in Earth's pattern of movement are relatively minor compared with those of other planets.

So, he is trying to explain rapid warming over 100 years (at the most) with cycles that are tens of thousands of years long. Only he doesn’t want to let you in on that part. I guess it goes without saying that his last quote cut off just before this in the original article:
In addition to natural factors, the world's climate system and its biodiversity are also being affected by the burning of fossil fuels.
Oil, gas and coal, and to a lesser degree agriculture, release carbon gases into the atmosphere, creating a "greenhouse effect" that traps solar radiation and causes Earth's surface temperature to warm.


Is it so hard to actually post links that work? I guess it's as hard as posting something in response to my actual post about dishonest practices instead of somewhat relevant links. But, let's address them anyway:

Link 1: Funny, I already wrote a whole article rebutting this one. Note that Unreliapundit can't decide whether ice core data isn't reliable for 200 years or is reliable for 650,000. This could be considered to be a slight logical problem on his part.

Link 2: So good he posted it twice. As I've noted, I'll take this up in a future post as soon as I a) watch the movie and b) have a chance to post on it.

Link 3: Great, a graph that cuts out at 1975, just when the most warming was taking place and we have the best measurements. I wonder why that is? Since 1975, we've seen the temperature go much higher than anything else on this graph (from about -.1 to +.5, so we should've seen the magnetic field strength have a similar large increase significantly over what it was in 1975. If you're trying to explain that tempeature rise, it stands to reason you'd actually use data for that time period.
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