Climate Change and Polar Bears: Susan Crockford

Susan Crockford is a zoologist who is well-known for her stance that polar bears are not in danger of extinction in the Arctic despite the worrying climb in global average temperatures. However, this position runs contrary to the consensus of the vast majority of polar bear experts based on models that take known factors about the dynamics of polar bear ecology and project the fate of the bears.

Susan Crockford is not a climate scientist, nor a polar bear expert, but she has written books and articles calling into question the model-based projections in the peer-reviewed literature. The real experts consider Susan to be a kook, who misrepresents their findings and makes arguments not based on good evidence.

Guess what? Our dear friend @Eddie wants me to read her book and ignore her critics (who are the real experts), characterizing the critiques of some of these experts who are prominent as “lies”. Not only that, Eddie has bought, completely, into the allegations of misconduct by professional scientists without any good evidence. For example, Eddie really believes Michael Mann played a fast one with his hockey stick graph and deleted data that might invalidate that graph. When I pressed him for evidence to support this, he offered none but referred me to books and videos composed by other climate-change deniers. Interestingly, Mann’s alleged misconduct had been probed nine times and the man was always found not guilty. Even more interesting is that his hockey stick chart has been reproduced by other scientists using other data sources beside tree rings.

The bottom line is that Eddie wants me to take the words of Susan Crockford against that of the experts despite her lack of expertise in the area of polar bears, but when we discuss evolutionary biology he mocks people who are not considered leaders in the field seeing them as inconsequential. The hypocrisy is mind blowing.


I don’t believe it is “cricket” to raise arguments from a private conversation and publish them as a topic here, but I leave that to the moderators to decide.

In any case, I will not engage in a debate over climate change or polar bears here. Suffice it to say that Michael Okoko has misrepresented what Susan Crockford says in her book. She does not say that there is no potential danger to polar bears from loss of ice. She says that the specific predictions (which she documents from the literature) about summer sea ice and its relationship to polar bear numbers have been falsified. If all ice, including spring ice, were to vanish, then the polar bears would be in serious trouble. But the prediction she deals with was a very specific one about summer sea ice. I explained this carefully to Michael a few times. Anyone who wishes to learn what she argues can read her book – which Michael Okoko has not done, and refuses to do.

By the way, Crockford is an evolutionary biologist by training, and not an evolution-denier by any means. In fact, her instincts as an evolutionary biologist told her that the polar bears would be more adaptable to changing conditions than many people thought – and so they were.

As for Mann, that is a separate topic. His behavior regarding the hockey stick graph has brought him in for criticism not merely from AGW deniers, but even from many people on his side. The evidence that Michael Okoko said that I would not provide, is found in books and videos which I recommended to him. He refuses to read or watch them. I have no intention of spending hours retyping in my own words the arguments in those books and videos. Note that the only claim I made about Michael Mann concerned improper methods of research and presentation; I made no claim that the earth was not warming or even that the rise in temperature could not be shown by methods other than Mann’s. The very limited criticism I offered is supported by evidence from the sources I cited. Michael Okoko can read those sources, or choose to ignore them.

These remarks pertain wholly to Michael Okoko’s charges against my procedure, based on a private conversation with him which I expected to remain private. I will not here discuss the subject matters of global warming or polar bears, but merely wanted to clarify what was said. I will not have private discussions with Michael Okoko again, since it is clear that what is said privately will not remain private, and will be distorted when translated into public form.

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…he says, introducing his debate over climate change and polar bears.


It’s this weird attempt to get a platform to spew arguments against X without having anyone rebut them he plays every time. It’s ridiculous. Sort of like when he comes advertising ID books he has not read himself, and if you say anything about those books (for example on the basis of a review of it) he acts all indignant that you’d comment on a book you didn’t read. But apparently calling attention to it did not require reading it.


It’s also weird Because after a public discussion on this forum about Michael Mann and the Hockey stick, Eddie also started trying to argue with me in private messages.

His obsession with and approach to this whole subject of man-made global warming, and the demand to have it be either one-sided in public(he gets to call attention to stuff, but you don’t get to respond and he refuses to engage), or otherwise private only if you wish to respond, is truly bizarre.


For crying out loud, she has a blog called and I responded to one of her misrepresentations of Armstrup et al (2007) in a blog post of her’s. You are the one misrepresenting me now.

This is a good time to demonstrate one of her misrepresentations.

One of the so-called failed “predictions” is that made by Steven Armstrup (an actual polar bear expert) in a 2007 paper. Susan says in a blog post

After seeing this, I immediately went to look up Armstrup et al and these are the projections they make:

(Bold mine)

Note that Armstrup says this extinction is most likely to happen mid century. When is mid century? 2050!

How can she call his model failed when the most likely time period it estimates for polar bears in the aforementioned regions to have gone extinct is still more than two decades into the future? That’s cuckoo. As it stands, the model is neither wrong nor true. Armstrup has a chart for this:

Armstrup et al paper:

It is pertinent to note that since the time Armstrup’s model was made, new ecological factors in polar bear environments which could overwhelm the sea-ice level factor for a while have been uncovered and documented. So we expect his and other polar bear projection models to get refined with time.

Eddie why don’t you cite the paper with the prediction and let’s see if she represents it correctly.

Eddie there are literally hundreds of peer-reviewed articles written by people who have spent decades studying polar bears and their projections based on field observations disagree with Susan’s arguments. Why do you dread checking the primary literature yourself?

She is not a polar bear or climate scientist, the areas of expertise in question. In addition this is a strawman since I have never argued here or in private that she denies evolution.

Ian Stirling is an evolutionary biologist and polar bear expert, with about 300 articles and 5 books on polar bears. He agrees that polar bears are in danger if the Arctic keeps on warming up. Why would you take Susan’s claims over his?

By the way, read Ian Stirling’s profile:

I prefer data in the paper below to Susan’s instincts:

Eddie go and read the primary literature.

Why can’t you list some of the evidence or link to the statements of the “people on his side”? By the way I watched a bit of the video you posted, wherein McIntyre attempted to discredit the hockey stick graph. Suffice to say, that graph has survived invalidation and has been replicated through other datasets by other scientists. McIntyre’s presentation is rendered irrelevant because of that.

Please support this claim of “improper methods of research”?

I don’t care if you don’t want to have future private discussions with me. You have fallen for the tricks of climate change deniers (Susan is one of them). You even advised me to follow up Judith Curry, another credentialed denier that human activities are the major drivers of climate change, a position in stark contrast to that of the vast majority of climate scientists. You have fallen hard man!


No, she’s a zoologist by training.

If you’re going to argue from authority, at least describe the authority correctly.


Her PhD was apparently in “Interdisciplinary Studies”, specifically the intersection between “biology and anthropology”[1] with a dissertation on “Animal Domestication and Vertebrate Speciation: A Paradigm for the Origin of Species”[2].

I’m sure some here would claim that this makes her “an evolutionary biologist”. I don’t think I’d agree with them – but will leave the real evolutionary biologists to argue this point. (Gets out a large bowl of popcorn :nerd_face:)

Addendum: the dissertation can be found here:


I could point out that PhD research isn’t really “training”.

If you think that someone can work in archaeozoology and zoogeography without background in evolutionary theory, I don’t think you are well informed.

From the back of the book:

“Dr. Susan Crockford is an evolutionary biologist…”

From Crockford:

“I have written more than 30 papers for peer-reviewed journals or book chapters on … evolution, paleoecology, genetics, endocrinology, and zoogeography… evolution and evolutionary theory are my primary intellectual interests. I take my cue from the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, who in 1937 wrote a book called “Genetics and the Origin of Species”… [he] stated that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” and in that I quite agree.”

“… how … did a wolf turn into a dog – or a brown bear transform into a polar bear? I developed a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of dogs and polar bears as well as all other vertebrate species, which became the topic of my Ph.D. thesis and a later paper.”

“I went on to write a book … on the role of thyroid hormones in evolution.”

That her work, from graduate school on, has had a strong evolutionary focus, is clear. Whether that counts as “training” I leave to the many pedants here to decide.

Are the “real evolutionary biologists” only those with “training” in the field, or can they become evolutionary biologists by the work they do after their general biological “training”? Which people here are “real evolutionary biologists” by Tim’s standard? I’d like to see his list, and the criteria by which he included or excluded people from the list.

I write all this just to clear the air regarding what Crockford actually studies and researches. Her specific views on polar bears, climate change, etc. I will not discuss, since I never consented to the launching of this topic in the irregular way that it was launched. If others want to join Michael Okoko in issuing criticisms of a book on polar bear numbers that they have not read, they are welcome to pursue the discussion, without me.

Susan has a blog and I have critiqued what’s on that blog, not her book. With all your decades of experience you love to throw in my face, its surprising you haven’t been able to grasp this. By the way her views on polar bears and climate change are irrelevant because there is a wealth of literature and commentaries from people who do research in both areas.

Pax tecum.

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What you think is of no import.

From Susan Crockford’s own website:

“My name is Susan Crockford and I am a zoologist with more than 35 years experience”

Feel free to explain why publicity blurbs and unreferenced texts should overrule Crockford’s own self-description.

If you can manage that, explain why any such claims should be accepted uncritically.

It doesn’t.

Kent Hovind’s work also has a strong evolutionary focus, but there’s no way anyone can legitimately claim Hovind has training in evolutionary biology. That’s an extreme example, but it clearly illustrates the difference between “work” and “training” that you are trying to disguise.


Which does not exclude her also being an evolutionary biologist; the two fields are not mutually exclusive.

It wasn’t unreferenced. I assumed that you would understand that the quotations were from her book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, since that was the book I had been discussing with Michael Okoko. If you want the page numbers, for completeness of reference, they are 136 and 137. She interprets herself as someone who works at least in part within the area of evolutionary theory (as well as the other fields mentioned); that’s clear from the passages I quoted and from several other statements in the book about the evolution of polar bears. If you doubt my quotations, buy the book and check them.

A silly comparison. Hovind’s educational background is in things like music and Christian ministry. Crockford has a Ph.D. in biology, with a zoological focus. You don’t earn a Ph.D in biology, with a zoological focus, without getting some training in evolutionary theory. Especially when your doctorate is on the origin of dogs and polar bears.

Pedantry and caviling continue to be regular features of the postings of the atheists on this site. The desire to catch people out on phrasing, score trivial points in debate, etc. is constantly exhibited in the contributions of many of them.

Yawn. Learn to vet what you read, especially when what you read militates against the consensus of an entire field.

So your evidence that Susan Crockford is an evolutionary biologist is (1) a book blurb, (2) she doesn’t say she isn’t, and (3) you think some-one can’t get a PhD in biology and anthropology without being one.

A book that was not previously mentioned in this thread, but only in one post from 18 months ago and presumably your private conversation - making your extract unreferenced.

As some-one who actually has a Ph.D., albeit not in biology and anthropology, I can assure you that earning a Ph.D. usually consists of original research, and may not involve getting any training in anything.

That you don’t know this suggests you haven’t got one, and haven’t got a clue how to get one.*

*Other than buying it from somewhere like Patriot University.

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Michael Okoko wrote:

“Our dear friend @Eddie wants me to read her book”

And the context indicated a book on polar bears. So you could have quickly determined what book it was, but you’re right, I didn’t explicitly mention the title. But now I have, and I’ve given page numbers as well, so the quotations are no longer “unreferenced”. So you have to deal with their contents. And I see from your answer that so far, you haven’t.

Unless things have changed in recent years, the vast majority of Ph.D. programs in North America (as opposed to, say, Oxford) are not “dissertation alone” but involve course work and/or comprehensive exams as well. So there is plenty of “training” before the dissertation is undertaken. And there is training involved in the dissertation as well, training in both research skills and thinking through the issues in the field. Finally, even if someone did a dissertation-only Ph.D., they would have first done at least a Bachelor’s Degree and quite possibly also a Master’s before starting the Ph.D. program, and there is lots of “training” involved in those earlier degrees. So to quote your own words back at you:

In any case, Crockford’s degree background is discussed in her book, and it’s clear she had training in many areas of biology, including evolutionary theory. If you doubt it, read her book and look up her c.v.

I think this disposes of your pedantic objections.

It certainly does. You have nothing to support your claim that “Crockford is an evolutionary biologist by training”, only a supposition that she probably took a course in evolution as part of her zoology degree or her biology/anthropology PhD.

Oh, and either you haven’t looked up her CV yourself, or you chose to mentioned Master’s degree courses while knowing she hasn’t got one.

Nor does any of this address the fact that you are as usual engaged in the fallacy of employing credentialism in support of an argument from authority (that’s self-proclaimed in a related field) , while refusing to discuss any of the science.


Exactly. There are PhD-bearing virologists who deny HIV causes AIDS. There are PhD-credentialed immunologists who think vaccines cause autism. The list goes on. These people write books, articles, and have blogs wherein they spew out all their crankery. Without being able to read the primary literature, it would be quite difficult to vet their arguments. In addition these cranks love to narrate how they are persecuted by mainstream scientists and will usually resort to smear tactics to undermine the credibility of the leading experts who are critical of their claims.

Its definitely not wrong to challenge mainstream ideas, but you must have something very convincing to do this. Cranks don’t deal with evidence, but rhetoric and so would hardly bother with scientists because they know they won’t get far. Instead they write for public audiences who won’t check to make sure their ideas are consistent with the best evidence available. @Eddie likes Yale professors a lot, maybe he can go check out their climate scientists who disagree with the nonsense Judith Curry and her ilk spread around.

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Nope, I’m not doing that at all. You’re reading carelessly (as you often do when reading my posts, it seems). The context of my original remark (the phrase “by the way” indicating a side-point, not directly relevant to her main argument) ought to have made it clear that my mention of her background in evolutionary theory was not to say she must be right about climate-related issues, but to allay any fears from readers here that she was an anti-evolutionist, creationist, etc. and hence, by their lights, “anti-science” and not worth listening to on any scientific topic. I was anticipating and trying to head off the reaction of “Why would I want to read anything by someone who denies evolution and therefore does not understand how to reach proper scientific conclusions?” Since she supports the part of consensus science that people here most bellyache about, i.e., evolution, there is no reason to think that she is the sort of person who rejects consensus science as such, or routinely takes the side of cranks and oddballs.

Her 150-page book is filled with evidence, and relies very little if at all on rhetoric. She’s not a crank, unless you are defining “crank” to mean “Anyone who questions the consensus.” Actually her style of writing is much less crankish than a good deal of what appears here on this site: very calm, rational, stepwise, and logically transparent. And unlike the crank, she invites criticism of her scientific work, as long as it is measured and rational criticism, not rhetorical charges about her alleged beliefs and motives – or charges that she is a “crank”.

When I was trained in academia, you were not allowed to respond to arguments by calling a person a crank. You responded to arguments by counterarguments based on evidence. The tendency of so many people here to leap right into labelling people and imputing motives to them, instead of limiting themselves solely to the arguments, is a very unhealthy one, bad for both science and society.

We were also taught that a young academic with no training or publications in the field in question was not in a position to say whether or not a scientist with 170 peer-reviewed publications in that field was writing “nonsense.”

Yes you are, especially when the rest of that sentence is restored.

I’m going to disregard complaints about context from some-one who just quoted only half a sentence.

People smarter than you are know that it is possible to take the side of cranks and oddballs on one topic while agreeing with mainstream views on another.

Yet here you are responding to arguments with references to authority.


I neither said nor implied that Crockford’s background (call it background or study or knowledge if you don’t like the word “training”) in evolutionary theory made all or any of her arguments about evolution or about polar bears correct, so I made no argument for the truth of her conclusions based on credentials or authority. But we do know that she is an enthusiastic proponent of evolution, and so we know that she does not reflexively oppose “scientific consensus” out some weird contrarian kink in her personality. She agrees with consensus on some points, where she thinks the consensus is warranted, and disagrees with it on other points, where she thinks it is not warranted. That’s exactly what a responsible scientist should do. To go against one’s own personal professional judgment, out of fear of being judged a heretic against the consensus, is no sign of great professional competence; it’s a sign of intellectual or social cowardice.