Spiked at it Again

In 2005 I wrote about a survey of “renowned scientists” conducted by spiked (if you’ve never heard of spiked, read this) that included 14 global warming skeptics and only three from the mainstream of climate science.

Now they’ve conducted another survey, asking “key thinkers in science, technology and medicine … what they see as the greatest innovation in their field”. They do have responses from great scientists, but once again climate science is represented by global warming skeptics: Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, John Brignell, Kenneth Green, Nils-Axel Mörner, Todd Seavey, and S Fred Singer. This time there is nobody from the mainstream at all.

What does Nils-Axel Mörner see as the greatest innovation in his field?

When Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543 put the Sun in the centre, a depressing ‘ruling model’ was killed after 1800 years, and science, thinking and innovation exploded. I rate this event as ‘greatest’.

Can you guess where he’s going with this?


Are there any ruling models today, we may ask. Well, I think the hysteria about global warming and the stubbornness in claiming a safe nuclear waste storage have grown to ruling models retarding progress and innovative thinking, and hence are bound to become executed by time.

Yep, another one who thinks he’s Galileo.

And what does Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen see as the greatest innovation in her field?

I can think of a bad one: ever more media people (and others) now pontificate about science and especially ‘global warming’ and the climate (even planetary ethics) without any real understanding of climate and how little we understand it.

If you’re familiar with Boehmer-Christiansen, your jaw probably just dropped at that. She’s the editor that just published Beck’s paper that purports to debunk the Keeling curve, prompting this question from Georg Hoffman:

The last question to answer is how on earth Beck’s paper could survive a half-decent review process from anyone who knows any of this history. But this is a question best posed to the Editorial board of Energy and Environment and its Editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen.

And she’s about to publish something from David Archibald that Nexus 6 (with quite some justification) describes as:

the worst climate science paper ever of all time anywhere.

Boehmer-Christiansen continues with:

Many who demand policy changes do not know how science and especially mathematical modelling work. Science can and often has been misused for propaganda purposes, to gain legitimacy, practice ‘spin’, or underpin political correctness. I think British society, led by government (bureaucracy and research lobbies) has gone genuinely mad – for non-science related reasons – over ‘global warming’ as a real and proven scientific phenomenon.

If Boehmer-Christiansen had any understanding of how science and mathematical modelling worked how could she possibly have published Beck and Archibald?

Comments

  1. #1 Thom
    May 3, 2007

    Just for those who might be new to Boehmer-Christiansen, she the editor of that skeptic journal Energy and Environment. This is also the journal that launched McKitrick and McIntyre to fame, before they started their blog Climate Audit.

    It’s also the journal where Roger Pielke Jr. started his mad march to denying any link between hurricanes/climate change. So as you can see, it is a very rigorous journal that is held in high esteem in certain quarters.

  2. #2 guthrie
    May 3, 2007

    Eh? I’ve been reading a fair bit of history of science and technology recently, and I don’t get this bit from Nils-axel Morner at all:

    ” and science, thinking and innovation exploded.”

    As far as I can see, they did not increase over the next 150 years (Hardly an explosion) beause of that, rather it was because of the improvements in technology that resulted from artisans, and the increasing correspondence between what intellectuals were interested in and what actual workers (eg miners, dyers, metallurgists etc) were doing. This in itself was because of a changing intellectual climate that began to prize more material outlooks over mere theological sophistry.

    As for British society, I can tell her she’s talking mince. Most people don’t care, and any public place such as forums, that I see, ordinary denialists and brain dead sceptics outnumber people like the readers of this blog at least 2 to one.

  3. #3 David
    May 3, 2007

    Q: Who cares what Spiked thinks? I have never heard of them before this post and don’t expect to ever hear from them again. They are not players and their coverage has no consequences. The world’s acceptance of anthropogenic global warming has made significant strides in the last 5 years, even in the US. There are always going to be a couple of skeptics, but they have never been more marginalized than they are today. Few people give them any credence, and you, Deltoid, probably doubled their attention just by linking to this.

    If you were truly confident in your position, you would not need to beat down every minor and exceedingly trivial dissent.

  4. #4 Miguelito
    May 3, 2007

    I checked the Archibald paper out. You know, thinking that it couldn’t be the worst paper of all time. I mean, there’s been alot of time to accumulate very bad papers.

    After reading it, I have a sudden yearning for some mind bleach.

  5. #5 guthrie
    May 3, 2007

    David- Spiked are a group of people trying to gain political power in various ways, including this one. Why we should ignore them is beyond me, especially since their exposure here in the UK is surprisingly wide. I assume you are not British?

  6. #6 jre
    May 3, 2007

    Just to complete the circle of zaniness, note the description of Spiked:

    Spiked is a British right wing libertarian sink which started at exactly the other end of the political spectrum with an extreme revolutionary left sink called The Revolutionary Communist Party which was run as a cult with hip clothes and its own rock band.

    Hmmm … who does that remind you of?

    So, Sonja B-C has published in the (snicker) peer-reviewed Energy and Environment a beyond-crankish paper by E.F. Beck, who believes that all CO2 measurements are equally valid, so all we need to do is run a cubic spline through every point, in the process garnering high praise from the aforementioned LaRouche. The same argument (that equal weight should be given all the data points, no matter how obviously bogus) has been made before, and LaRouche thought it was peachy back then, too.

    There are no accidents, man.

  7. #7 Kapitano
    May 3, 2007

    Spiked are lunatics, but they’re well connected lunatics. In their various guises – including the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Institute of Ideas – they’ve appeared freqently in print and on television putting their case. They specialise in using leftwing-sounding rhetoric to justify rightwing ideas.

    Wikipedia have a restrained article on their latest effort here.

    They are the archetypal “useful idiots” serving as a mouthpiece for the neocons.

  8. #8 David
    May 3, 2007

    guthrie wrote:
    > David- Spiked are a group of people trying to gain political > power in various ways, including this one. Why we should
    > ignore them is beyond me, especially since their exposure
    > here in the UK is surprisingly wide.

    The British government is extremely convinced of AGW, as is the next government. This position is becoming stronger each and every day. Worldwide, there has never been more consensus on the danger of AGW, and this too is becoming stronger each and evey day. Sonic B-C is irrelevant and everyone recognizes her as a loser. Spiked is not going to have any influence on any of this. Deltoid is wasting its time by refuting each and every stupid pronouncement against AGW — there are still people who think Newton was wrong. There is no end to it. Focus on what is important.

  9. #9 Eli Rabett
    May 3, 2007

    Eli is rather fond of calling Sonia Princess Denial. She made her bones trashing acid rain and has been involved in denialist climate change circles for more than a decade. The Princess is no Johnny come lately to the party.

  10. #10 Obdulantist
    May 3, 2007

    I thought long and hard before writing this, because I generally don’t get involved in this kind of debate, but I am going to make an exception for Spiked.

    I have had to deal with some of Spiked’s, umm, input into a serious and contentious medical issue.

    Self-serving, shamelessly hypocritical, authoritarian bullies, with a stunning lack of understanding of the real technical issues, (and even less interest in learning about them).

    Dealing with their vicious partisan nonsense, and the real consequences for real and very sick people, has left a very nasty taste in my mouth. I have no respect for them whatsoever, and I caution all to be very wary of their destructive tactics and aims.

    To those who say Spiked are just a fringe group with no substantial influence, and that we should just ignore them, I say you are very wrong. They are one of the most insidious and dangerous advocacy groups I have ever seen in action; they are a real threat to open, ethical society and to genuinely science based public policy; and they must be firmly dealt with and stopped dead in their tracks.

    That is the most civil and restrained way I can put it.

  11. #11 SCM
    May 3, 2007

    Its worth a mention here (for those that don’t know) that the same RCP types that are behind Spiked were also involved with the making of the Great Global Warming Swindle.

  12. #12 Kazim
    May 3, 2007

    “Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.”
    — Robert Park

  13. #13 Abe G
    May 3, 2007

    What are the chances that this Archibald guy pulishing in E&E is actually a real claimte scientist publishing utter crap to embarass the journal and all who publish there?

    I hope the chances are good, because I would like to see it.

    Hmmm…maybe I’ll write my own paper…The Effect of Gerbil Flatulence on Cosmic Ray Density in Closed Climate Systems: An Infrared Spectroscopal Double Analysis Using Guassian Interpolation of Multiply Displaced Parameters.

    Too science-y?

  14. #14 Marion Delgado
    May 4, 2007

    Wait, isn’t that an automatic +100 crank points?

    Or does it have to actually Be Gallileo?

  15. #15 Lurker
    May 4, 2007

    I checked ISI to see how many research articles Sonja-honey has published in science (not social science or humanities): zero.

  16. #16 david tiley
    May 4, 2007

    David – sometimes I agree with the position you have put here. Dealing with the creatures that this site hunts is like stomping through the crowds on New Year’s Eve looking for the pimps.

    But.. a presence on the internetwebnets is different from real life. It is possible to fester in some horrid, scungy room with bits of old science journals, misquoted textbooks and a bagful of simple lies and pose as an expert. With no more than that, you are in the debate. Being requoted and churned around, fuelling confusion and undermining political realities. And, as we know from experience, being quoted in political speeches, providing snappy lines for editorials, and sustaining feature articles in broadsheets.

    A cockroach eats such a small amount. Shouldn’t we just ignore it?

    One of the things that I admire about the indefatigable gang on this site is that they just keep churning out the refutations. Smacking em down until the slipper wears out.

  17. #17 Jeff Harvey
    May 4, 2007

    I was asked by Spiked to contribute to this survey but I more or less told them to take a flying jump – I know all about the ideological underpinnings of this bunch and how they have promoted anti-environmentalism over the years. I also knew they’d stack the deck with pseudos and contrarians as they did the last time round.

  18. #18 Lurker
    May 4, 2007

    I’m a bit disappointed that Timmy Ball didn’t contribute. Perhaps in his opinion the ‘greatest innovation in his field’ would be his CV.

  19. #19 MikeB
    May 6, 2007

    Kapitano & Obdulantist have it absolutely right – Spiked (and its ilk) are dangerous, because they are well connected, financed, and increasingly accepted in media circles. Another of LM’s offshots, the Institute of Ideas, has a director by the name of Claire Fox. She not only appears regularly on BBC Radio 4, she’s even a member of the panel of one of its higher-profile programmes, The Moral Maze’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/religion/claire_fox.shtml

    Since this panel also includes ‘Mad Mel’ Melanie Phillips, who writes for the Daily Mail (the house journal for anti-intellectuallism and very bad science) on a variety of issues, most of which are bonkers, you begin to see the problem.

    George Monbiot has done a good job in tracking these people rise up the ranks http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/12/09/invasion-of-the-entryists/
    , but I’m continually amazed by the amount of uncritical press they get. Sense About Science http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=151 & http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Sense_about_Science regularly appears in the British media as an authoritive voice, despite their questionable connects. Indeed, it was at their conference on climate change where two supposed ‘experts’ said that they were sure that climate change had been exaggerated by US scientific organisations – something which was top of the headlines on the BBC news. It was of course nonsense.
    The fact that the head of SaS (Lord Taverne)has been in touch with some of the usual suspects http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/000363more_on_why_politics.html on climate change really should make us all wonder about their true motives.

    These people are dangerous because people believe them, and I’m not just talking the tin hat brigade, or even the odd lazy journalist. A contributer to Scienceblogs (I’m not saying who it is, but his nom de blog starts ‘Pure’…) wrote an article in the last couple of days condenming a number of British scientists for daring to suggest in a letter that ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ shoould not be released on DVD, bacause it is basically bollocks.
    Rather than actually look into the background of the programme (he admitted he hadn’t even bothered to watch it), he just shouted censorship, in pretty much the way that the maker of the programme has done. Fortunately, a couple of replies stated the obvious problems with the programme, including someone who actually signed the original letter.
    If a member of Scienceblogs cannot be bothered to check even the basic facts about this programme and the people who are behind it, then do you really think that many journalists are going to bother? The BBC certainly doesn’t, and that worries me.

  20. #20 Obdulantist
    May 7, 2007

    Sense About Science, and the Science Media Centre, are probably the most dangerous spawn of the whole bizarre LM/Spiked phenomenon. I have always been very wary of those who are absolutely determined to save the rest of us from ourselves, and SAS et al really, really scare me.

    George Monbiot summed it up well in the final line of his article that MikeB linked to:

    “Far from rebuilding public trust in science and medicine, this group’s repugnant philosophy could finally destroy it.”

  21. #21 MikeB
    May 7, 2007

    Perhaps some of the reasons that SaS has been particularly effective has been that they feed in to the agendas of several different parties.

    Firstly, they support areas of science which have quasi-offical support, such as nuclear and GM, which are generally regarded with some suspicion by much of the public. In essence, they get the backing (finacial and otherwise) of the big players in these areas (such as Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, AstraZeneca plc, Pfizer plc and Oxford GlycoSciences plc http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=151), as well as ‘offical’ science.

    They have also managed to attract people with some real stature, such as Simon Singh (although after his contact with Durkin, as detailed in the TGGWS Wiki, perhaps he will think twice), they have a number of links with the Royal Society, and the name itself closely resembles the reputable organisation , Save British Science.

    Having a peer as head of the organisation makes it seem even more respectable, although having seen Taverne doing a song at a party political conference some years ago, respectable wasn’t the impression I got!

    They also cleverly realised that in dealing with a media that likes conflict, but also craves ‘balance’, they are perfectly placed to be the ‘sensible’ voice in opposition to Friends of the Earth, etc. Yet when the ‘Institute of Ideas’ people speak, they often advance ideas which stir up controversy (such as on bullying http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/2002_24_tue_01.shtml), but can be presented as standing up against ‘political correctness’ and ‘defending freedom’, which of course is manna to writers on papers like the Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph.

    Durkin is the perfect example of these tactics. He makes a programme full of errors, yet sells it as ‘sensible science’, offering a ‘balanced’ view, which resists the ‘green Taliban’ of environmentalists and the ‘political’ IPCC. When the errors are pointed out, he screams ‘censorship’ and claims he is a victim.

    Of course SaS is more careful about climate change, because they know that anyone, no matter how well connected, who says that AGW does not exist will be seen as loopy (the UK has no political split on the reality of AGW, unlike the US).
    Although they seem to have a number of common members with the Scientific Alliance, they have gone for a different approach on this issue. Instead they talk about ‘sound science’ and the need for a ‘balanced debate’. It makes them appear as honest brokers, yet of course it promotes doubt in the media, which is exactly what they want. Much more subtle, and much more effective than simply saying no.

    Thats why they are so dangerous, because they appear to the unwary as people interested in science, rather than their own agenda. As a previous poster puts it, ‘they scare the hell out of me’.

  22. #22 Dean Morrison
    May 9, 2007

    Don’t forget that other ‘Spiked’ offshoot – the ‘Science Media Centre’.

    This is housed at the ‘Royal Institution’ and calims to counter ‘misrepresentations of science’.

    However when it comes to countering any of their friends’ misrepresentations of science we hear diddly-squit – they’ve had nothing at all to say about ‘Durkins Swindle’ – even though another scientist who contributed to the programme says he was misrepresented; and has accused them of ‘fabricating data’.

    http://badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2427

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