Miranda Devine, in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald brings us the sad story of how Ian Plimer is being shouted down and silenced:

Human-caused climate change is being “promoted with religious zeal … there are fundamentalist organisations which will do anything to silence critics.” …

It is difficult for non-scientists to engage in the debate over what causes climate change and whether or not it can be stopped by new taxes and slower growth, because dissenting voices are shouted down by true believers in the scientific community who claim they alone have the authority to speak.

The same day in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph Piers Akerman also carried Plimer’s message

Professor Plimer asks why this science is ignored. He would also like to know why the IPCC’s models, used by Rudd and Garnaut to justify policies, do not include the heat and C02 emissions from 85 per cent of the world’s volcanoes, those under the oceans lying along 64,000km of mid-ocean ridges?

He says volcanoes on the floor of the Arctic Ocean heat the Arctic waters, that subglacial volcanoes in Antarctica erupt and exhale heat beneath the ice from hot gas vents and hot springs, but we don’t hear about them or the subglacial lakes and river systems in Antarctica.

Possibly because the total heat flux from the Earth’s interior amounts to just 0.075 Watts per square metre, while incoming solar radiation is 342 Watts per square metre, about 5000 times as much. And human emissions of CO2 are one hundred times that from volcanoes on land and under the sea.

And today the Australian reprinted extracts from Devine’s and Akerman’s columns. And the “shouted down” Plimer wasn’t just in every single daily paper in Sydney. This week Plimer was also on ABC radio telling everyone that volcanoes emit more CO2 than people or the biosphere and touting EG Beck’s work. And earlier this month he was on TV, in the Australian and in the Canberra Times with some alarmist scaremongering about how an emissions trading was a “scam” which would totally destroy the mining industry. And that’s just this month. And “silenced” Plimer has been pumping out such misinformation for years now.

But what really takes the cake in Devine’s piece is this:

He likens the debate to the famous 1990s battle he had in the Federal Court, where he accused an elder of The Hills Bible Church in Baulkham Hills of breaching Australia’s Trade Practices Act by claiming to have found scientific evidence of Noah’s Ark in Turkey.

Plimer says creationists and climate alarmists are quite similar in that “we’re dealing with dogma and people who, when challenged, become quite vicious and irrational”.

You see, Plimer really did try to silence Allen Roberts:

Justice Ronald Sackville queried legal counsel as to whether his court was an appropriate forum for Melbourne academic, Ian Plimer, to sue Allen Roberts, who claims that he discovered Noah’s Ark in Turkey. Professor Plimer, head of earth sciences at Melbourne University, had earlier told the court that Mr Roberts made misleading and deceptive statements about the site in Turkey, in a series of lectures he gave in several capital cities during 1992. He took Mr Roberts to court, seeking an injunction to prevent repetition of the action.

Unlike Plimer, Roberts did not have his nonsense splashed across TV, radio and all the daily papers — he was just giving lectures, but Plimer tried to stop him from giving any more. Fortunately for Plimer there is no danger of someone suing Plimer for making misleading and deceptive statements to promote his new book, because he lost the case and the appeal, thus creating a precedent.

Plimer’s new book Heaven And Earth: The Missing Science Of Global Warming hasn’t been published yet, Jeffrey Shallit’s review of Plimer’s anti-Creationist book gives us some clues as to what his new book will be like.

Plimer’s new book is a shoddily-written polemic that, in places, verges on the hysterical. …

Plimer seems to believe that the battle against creationism is a gutter fight. He correctly observes that many creationists are dishonest (taking quotes out of context, fabricating evidence, ad hominem attacks, etc.), but has indulged in some of the same tactics himself. Plimer thinks the battle against creationism cannot be won by rational debate.

Plimer is certainly right to imply that the preponderance of creationists are so abysmally ignorant and arrogant — a deadly combination — that they cannot be convinced by rational argument. But the creation/evolution debate is not about convincing the creationists. One might as well argue with squid. The debate is about educating the public at large — the same public whose elected representatives pass laws, select textbooks, set curriculums, and fund research. We cannot successfully fight the pseudoscience of creationism by adopting gutter tactics. After all, the creationists have much of the public on their side: polls show strong support for “equal time”, where creationist “theory” and evolution are taught side-by-side. Joe and Mary Average are not going to be convinced of the truth of evolution by rude, squabbling scientists. If science and its conclusions are to remain credible in the eyes of the public, scientists must behave with decorum, be very careful about acknowledging the work of others, avoid ad hominem attacks, and be quick to admit error when proved wrong. Ian Plimer, regrettably, does not seem to understand this.

And that was when he had the science on his side…

Comments

  1. #1 JThompson
    November 27, 2008

    For some reason sentences like “It is difficult for non-scientists to engage in the debate… who claim they alone have the authority to speak.”
    always strike me as: “People who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and don’t understand the basic concepts behind anything got really angry when people called them out on it. Expect massive amounts of pouting in the future.”
    Probably because that’s almost always exactly what they mean.

  2. #2 Chris Noble
    November 27, 2008

    Unlike Plimer, Roberts did not have his nonsense splashed across TV, radio and all the daily papers — he was just giving lectures, but Plimer tried to stop him from giving any more.

    To be more exact, Roberts was using his lectures to extract money from his credulous creationist audience to fund his expeditions to find Noah’s Ark. There’s a fine line between freedom of speech and outright fraud. I believe that Robert’s had crossed the line.

    I was very disappointed when Plimer morphed from skeptic to crank though in retrospect some of the warning signs were there fro the start.

  3. #3 llewelly
    November 27, 2008

    Possibly because the total heat flux from the Earth’s interior amounts to just 0.075 Watts per square metre, while incoming solar radiation is 342 Watts per square metre, about 5000 times as much.

    For a different perspective, the IPCC AR4 estimate for radiative forcing of combined human activities is about +1.6 Wm-2 , or about 21.3 times as much. I think the theory that geothermal heat flow is the cause of the present warming trend requires geothermal heat flow in 1750 to have been negative – about -1.525 Wm-2 .

  4. #4 David Allen
    November 27, 2008

    The constant repetition of “suppression” of anti-climate change types is identical to right wing victimhood in the US. When they controlled the government, supreme court and the media and still complained that they were being oppressed.

    I must say, if you only read the output of Devine, Ackerman, Bolt and Blair once ever you’d never have to read it again. There’s no variation.

  5. #5 jonno
    November 27, 2008

    Would people react the same way in a murder case, if all the evidence pointed to just one person, including DNA (which is only 99.9% accurate, so that tiny 0.1% could be right), the jury had already made a guilty verdict, but some idiot kept pointing to another ‘suspect’, even though that person is clearly innocent and was in a different country at the time of the killing.

    The media would not make claims about people being shouted down and silenced; no they would have a media circus over the guilty party.

  6. #6 Tim
    November 27, 2008

    Veranda has made a habit of this “suppression” line (here. Aided and abetted by Julie Bishop (here). Just indicative of the level of seriousness in their entire position.

  7. #7 James Haughton
    November 27, 2008

    I wish I was as publicly silenced as Plimer. And as bankrupt as Alan Bond, and just as humble a citizen given a platform to speak up for media freedom as Rupert Murdoch.

  8. #8 Dave A
    November 27, 2008

    Tim,
    Superficially interesting post but does it actually mean anything other than you don’t like Plimer?

  9. #9 KiwiInOz
    November 27, 2008

    Dave A – I think the intent of Tim’s post is to point out that a) Plimer is not being suppressed by the evil scientific conspiracy, and b) that Plimer, Ackerman and Devine are patently wrong.

  10. #10 James Haughton
    November 27, 2008

    Plimer: Help, Help! I’m being oppressed! You all saw them oppressing me!
    Lambert et al: Bloody Peasant!

    sorry, couldn’t help myself, it’s all that geek kulcha.

  11. #11 Bernard J.
    November 27, 2008

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I had Ian as an undergrad he was a bloody good geologist, and a nice bloke. I was a bit bemused at the degree of his enthusiasm for the Ark case, but I was hoping that he would win, just so that folk who deliberately ignored science might think twice…

    And yes, he certainly went on to go from scepticism to going ‘emeritus’. Sad, sad, sad, because he used to practice his scepticism with much more subtlety than he seems to these days.

  12. #12 Richard McGuire
    November 28, 2008

    How do the likes of Plimer and Carter get away with propagating such nonsense, yet maintain their positions at university science facilties? I listened in disbelief to the Counterpoint interview. While I have no scientific qualifications, I easily recognised several of Plimer’s points, as being, at best, simply wrong, or at worst deliberate distortions. When I’ve previously raised the issue of the universities association with these characters I’ve been lectured about academic freedom. My response is this. Should a university history department employ a publicly professed holocost denier? Should a medical school employ someone who questions the link between HIV and AIDS? If the answer is no. Why do university science faculties continue their association the likes of Plimer,Carter, and others who contribute nothing to climate science, other than confusion in the minds of the public? Their oft cited association with these universities, gives them credibility they don’t deserve, and surely does nothing for the reputation of the universities.

  13. #13 Chris O'Neill
    November 28, 2008

    Dave A, Superficially funny post but does it actually mean anything other than you agree with Plimer?

  14. #14 climatepatrol
    November 28, 2008

    Plimer says: “Creationist arguments are nearly always completely bogus.” And here is what creationists say about the ark story: “Spectacular claims, a misleading video, people misquoted and misrepresented”. Case closed I guess.

    Anyhow regarding Plimer: Jeffrey Shallit (whom you linked) sums Plimer’s first book up nicely: “what is good about Plimer’s book is not original, and what is original is not good.” So why should anyone buy his new book on AGW politics?

  15. #15 Barton Paul Levenson
    November 28, 2008

    Tim, in your zeal to lambast a global warming denier, you let yourself be betrayed into careless calculation!

    Earth has a nonzero albedo. The climate system only absorbs about 237 watts per square meter. And according to Lodders and Fegley (1998, 128), the geothermal flux averages 0.087 watts per square meter. So sunlight only outweighs geothermal heat by a factor of 2,700, not 5,000! Clearly all IPCC models must be changed at once.

  16. #16 Paul
    November 28, 2008

    >It is difficult for non-scientists to engage in the debate over what causes climate change…

    Ha??…??

    Surely in order to debate it, you have to understand it?
    Otherwise you are just debating someone elses work and then you get into the world of trust and politics etc, the science then leaves the discussion and becomes irrational.

    Any debate about causes must be science based, hence scientists are central and should dominate.

  17. #17 Paul
    November 28, 2008

    Is there similarities between environmental campaigning and religion?

    Well inevitably yes!
    But unfortunately Plimer is twisting the reasons for the similarities.

    Environmentalists are dependent on scientists research in order to campaign (that’s why sceptics attack the science!).
    If you consider that the science is correct, then logically you need to get everyone to change the way they live.

    That is about as close to religion that environmental campaigning gets. eg. both want people to change. There isn’t really any mystery or underhand issues. Business does the same thing, in fact any campaign could be compared to religion, including political campaigning.

  18. #18 Dano
    November 28, 2008

    While this statement sounds preposterous to Progressives:

    Human-caused climate change is being “promoted with religious zeal … there are fundamentalist organisations which will do anything to silence critics.” …

    to ideologies leaning conservative, it gets people’s head nodding ‘yes’, and sparks a sense of…of…well, whatever it is that motivates these people.

    Yes, folks, rationality has nothing to do with it. You can’t out-argue these people. Their rationality does not seek out Enlightenment Principles as a way of knowing.

    Remember this. If you’re going to put information out there, don’t do it to sway the commenter.

    Best,

    D

  19. #19 bi -- IJI
    November 28, 2008

    Dano:

    Gah, the nutjobs will spew rubbish no matter what you do. Even as I speak, they’re probably googling for the phrase “global warming” to look for any places to dump their talking point payload.

  20. #20 Lank
    November 28, 2008

    Bernard at #11 said…. “when I had Ian as an undergrad he was a bloody good geologist”. Does this mean that you have come out of the closet Bernard?

    I know that Ian is still a ‘bloody good geologist’so why not take his advise now and review your unfortunate ideas on AGW? – Ian clearly knows what he is talking about.

  21. #21 QrazyQat
    November 28, 2008

    It is a standard tactic of pseudo and fringe science promoters to claim they are being silenced, censored, or attacked as long as their ideas are not uncritically accepted.

  22. #22 Chris O'Neill
    November 29, 2008

    Lank:

    I know that Ian is still a ‘bloody good geologist’so why not take his advise now and review your unfortunate ideas on AGW? – Ian clearly knows what he is talking about.

    So climate science is geology. We learn something every time Lank writes.

  23. #23 jimbobuddy
    November 29, 2008

    Props to you guys. I happened onto a post of yours from June of 2006. The arguments ,for me, were difficult to follow (i admit to knowing nothing!) until Tim Curtin began bloviating. The responses to his ,..er.. points lead me to a better understanding the quite fascinating science behind AGW.
    Therefore, I just wanted to commend you all for your Jobian(?) patience w/ boneheads like that. It results in enlightenment( really!) for non-sci boneheads like me . Thnx. You’re on my favlist.
    Cheers from Minneapolis!

  24. #24 bi -- IJI
    November 29, 2008

    > So climate science is geology. We learn something every time Lank writes.

    Also, Lank just “knows” that Plimer is still a “bloody good geologist”. He just needs to, well, know. Unlike Bernard J., who actually had to have Plimer as an undergraduate student.

    Lank’s brand of gnostic enlightenment, however, is absolutely rational and has nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

  25. #25 cj
    November 29, 2008

    Yo all. 1. Dumb to put any kind of crap into the nest. 2. Dumber to put a lot of faith in computer models, even ones you have written every line of code yourself. 3. If the global warming caper blows up, i.e. it does not pan out as predicted, the damage it will do to sensible practices on the planet will be HUGE (as in don’t trust those loonies –look what they said about global warming!!) 4. The history of prediction around global catastrophies is not that good folks. 5. The science is fascinating and…. importantly, for them not in the ‘hood — there are no right answers only better questions or… for those who prefer a different angle: only two kinds of theories: those that have been disproved and those yet to be disproved. Damn those glaciers for growing! And you want to model what next year? And it will only cost? Oh… I see.

  26. #26 Barton Paul Levenson
    November 29, 2008

    cj, what planet are you describing? It surely can’t be Earth.

    Most glaciers are shrinking, not growing. And it’s because I write computer models that I have faith in them. Where did you get the idea that equations can’t be used to describe the physical world?

  27. #27 bi -- IJI
    November 29, 2008

    > only two kinds of theories: those that have been disproved and those yet to be disproved.

    Therefore Al Gore is Fat, and from here we can conclude Ian Plimer is being suppressed by the evil evil Warmist Inquisition.

    CIVILITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. #28 z
    November 29, 2008

    ” If the global warming caper blows up, i.e. it does not pan out as predicted, the damage it will do to sensible practices on the planet will be HUGE (as in don’t trust those loonies –look what they said about global warming!!) ”

    well, we wouldn’t want to leave the current era behind, a golden age of sensible environmental practices, informed trust in the work of environmental scientists, and indignation towards those who would injure the environment significantly for personal gain, would we?

  29. #29 Chris O'Neill
    November 29, 2008

    cj:

    only two kinds of theories: those that have been disproved and those yet to be disproved

    Here’s one of those theories: cj is not an idiot.

  30. #30 Bernard J.
    November 30, 2008

    Bernard at #11 said…. “when I had Ian as an undergrad he was a bloody good geologist”. Does this mean that you have come out of the closet Bernard?

    Lank, I have explained a number of times here and on other sites that I am a biologist, initially working in several medical disciples and latterly in ecology. My excursions into geology, chemistry and mathematics in my undergraduate degree were to provide a solid as well as a broad base for my biological studies.

    Usefully, my background helps me to sort wheat from chaff better than many people are able to, although not as well as some. My background is sufficient though to know that you are demonstrating that you don’t have the capacity comprehend where it is that Ian is coming off the rails.

    You should know: I don’t need your advice to ‘review my ideas’. I do so daily, reading widely across many disciplines of science, practising true scepticism, and I have yet to see a convincing case against AGW. And believe me, I desperately look for the weaknesses in the paradigm. As an ecologist, these days I would rejoice if AGW were nothing to be concerned about – there’s enough else going belly-up in the biosphere without needing to worry about the climate as well.

    The thing is though, the best that denialism has produced does not pass muster. If you understood the scientific process you would better understand why this is so, and also how and why it is that genuinely good scientists such as Plimer go awry.

    If Plimer, Carter and others were onto something it would rapidly be picked up by the rest of the scientific world. The fact that it doesn’t despite much scrutiny is not an indication of conspiracy on the behalf of the world’s scintists, but merely that these denialists are a part of the small percentage in any area of endeavour whose practioners go off the rails.

    To the audience of the deniers it might seem that such people are making pretty explosions, and somehow blowing the vast majority of garreted academia out of the water, but to anyone with the capacity for critical analysis they are simply sad cases enwreathed by the smoke of their scientific wreckage.

    Although your grasp of real science leaves much to be desired, I reckon that you deserve a 5.5 out of 10 for your trolling – and with more effort you may one day think about striving for your own thread here or elsewhere…

  31. #31 Bernard J.
    November 30, 2008

    cj = Cumbria, Joe?

  32. #32 Stephen Shea
    December 6, 2008

    Thank God for Plimer and his ilk. I was starting to think those scientist might be on to something. Now where’s my fiddle.

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