Monday, September 26, 2011

Would be funny if it were fiction

Tenney Naumer was kind enough to leave a comment on last night's post about Dr. Charles Monnett linking to her extensive coverage.

For a taste of the quality of the investigation, Brad Johnson at Think Progress reports on a February interview of Monnett by IG Special Investigators Eric May and Lynn Gibson:
As Monnett attempted to explain in the interview, his influential paper included observations made flying over transects of a region of the polar ocean, as such:
Before a storm, 4 swimming polar bears observed / 11 percent of total region surveyed = about 36 expected swimming polar bears over entire region

After the storm, 3 dead floating polar bears observed / 11 percent of total region surveyed = about 27 expected dead floating polar bears over entire region

Thus, over the entire region, the rough estimate for the survival rate of swimming polar bears assuming they were caught in the storm is 9/36 = 25 percent.
The interview descends into farce as May reveals that he was incapable of understanding the very basic math behind the study:
ERIC MAY: Did they comment at all about any of the stats?

CHARLES MONNETT: Uh, there’s no stats in there.

ERIC MAY: Well, calculations, for, for example, the 25 percent survival rate.

CHARLES MONNETT: Oh, well, that’s just a mindless thing. That’s in the discussion. Um, that is not a statistic. Um, that’s a ratio estimator. It’s a, it’s a fifth grade procedure. Do you have kids?


CHARLES MONNETT: Okay, well, if you had kids, you would know that in about fifth grade, they start doing a thing called cross multiplication. “X” is to “Y” as, you know, “N” is to “M.” And you can – there’s, there’s a little procedure you use to compare the proportions. And so that’s a, um, simply a calculation. It’s not a statistic.
May then tried to argue that there were actually 63 polar bears, because 4 live polar bears + 3 dead polar bears / 11% = 63. Dr. Monnett quickly grew frustrated at the innumeracy and illogic of this calculation:
CHARLES MONNETT: And so I, I don’t even still follow what they did to get the 60 percent. That, that’s –

ERIC MAY: The 63 percent.

CHARLES MONNETT: Yeah, that’s just goofy. [...]

ERIC MAY: Okay, and we’ll – let me, let – “of bears before the storm, then the total number of bears after the storm is 63,” and that’s where I came up with the sixty –

CHARLES MONNETT: That’s just stupid. I – did you do that?


CHARLES MONNETT: That is stupid. …

CHARLES MONNETT: Somebody is deficient in fifth grade math.

ERIC MAY: (Laughing)

CHARLES MONNETT: Seriously. I mean, give me a break.

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