Ian Enting, author of Twisted: The Distorted Mathematics of Greenhouse Denial and the definitive list of errors in Plimer’s Heaven and Earth has a talk on Ockham’s Razor on the public debate on climate science:

the central issue is that if there was a real case against a significant human influence on climate, why is so much of what passes for public debate based on fabrication? If Ian Plimer had a real case, why does he misrepresent the contents of dozens of his cited references and fabricates so many of his graphics? More importantly, since Plimer is only one individual, if his fellow pseudo-sceptics desire scientific truth rather than just manufacturing doubt, why don’t they explicitly dissociate themselves from Plimer’s conduct?

Comments

  1. #1 Lotharsson
    March 20, 2011

    Interestingly the comments at Ockham’s Razor seem to lean on average towards “skepticism” including a bunch of classic denialist memes, and there’s a comment by one “John McLean” accusing Enting of ad hom (haven’t read the transcript yet to see if that’s valid) and touting his paper with de Freitas and Carter as a “plausible explanation via natural force”.

    Same old same old.

  2. #2 Lotharsson
    March 20, 2011

    After reading the transcript, several of the comments complaining about the piece are either based on mis-comprehension or mis-direction.

    I’m not sure what John McLean (and one other commenter) thought was an ad hom either. Maybe they think the term means merely “criticism of a named person”…

  3. #3 rog
    March 20, 2011

    Much of the “debate” is based on punctuation and semantics and considerable outrage has been vent on the definition of phrases like “trick”.

    But no argument of real value, just insinuations.

  4. #4 Lotharsson
    March 20, 2011

    I felt moved to leave a few comments at Ockham’s Razor for anyone who shows up late ;-) They may get moderated out though – the show was over a week ago.

  5. #5 savemejeebus
    March 20, 2011

    The one comment that stood out was the one from Chris Fountain, PhD. Not for its content, but for his need to tack Ph.D to the end of his name. At university I had a Ph.D supervisor who, when losing an argument, would defer to his PhD. (DPhil.) from Oxford, as if this would provide wieght to his weak arguments. (Not to the work that he did, but to his award from a reputable institution.) A couple of years ago, I read his thesis and it wasn’t particularly well written or insightful. I have come across many people like him over the few years since, at conferences etc. and I have developed a thoery which is largely true. Anyone who points out the fact they have a PhD. during an argument, anyone who writes Ph.D at the end of their name on book covers (Jerome R Corsi, PhD. for instance) anyone who says that they were awarded their degree from a well known institution, and anyone who insists that they be called Dr. is compensating for a weak argument and I refuse to be conned. It is the classic case of misdirection. I find that most of the time they are full of shit.
    My theory sometimes has flaws, and occasional exceptions but I think that it holds true. All I need is a punchy name to describe this phenomenon.

  6. #6 Mike Pope
    March 20, 2011

    Professor Enting asks … “If his fellow pseudo-sceptics desire scientific truth rather than just manufacturing doubt, why don’t they explicitly dissociate themselves from Plimer’s conduct?”

    What a very interesting question. It is of course rhetorical since the answer is obvious. Pseudo-skeptics, global warming and climate change deniers assert that AGW and its effects are either not occurring or arise from causes other than human activity.

    They can (and do) only sustain their position by presenting evidence which distorts, or misrepresents the work of others, by fabricating data and by making assertions which are downright lies. Plimer and Monckton are recognized as indulging in not only these activities but doing so knowingly and repeatedly, even after the error of their ways has been pointed out to them. Such conduct is never to be condoned or ignored – but it often is.

    Professor Enting, through his meticulous work on Plimers’ Heaven+Earth displays scholarship and knowledge well beyond the ordinary. He has produced results showing the full extent of intellectual dishonesty to which some will stoop. What I find so shocking is not that a few otherwise reputable scientists are prepared to do this but that institutions of learning continue to employ them.

    Should they? If they did not, would that be an action seen as curtailing freedom of speech? The latter I would abhor but the idea of teaching students pseudo science is equally abhorrent.

  7. #7 Ian Enting
    March 21, 2011

    Mike Pope thinks that my question is rhetorical, and to some extent it is. But it is also
    a challenge. It is up to anyone who disagrees with Mike’s answer to come up with an
    alternative reason.

    Nice comments about me Mike, but a bit over the top. George Monbiot was more accurate
    in describing what is needed as persistence and a strong stomach. My latest bit of persistence is to read every scientific journal paper referenced in Plimer’s section on “Roman Warming” and find that none of them mention 2 to 6 degrees warming as claimed by Plimer and channelled by Pell (see Deltoid 14 March).

  8. #8 John Mashey
    March 21, 2011

    re: #6
    It isn’t freedom of speech. Tenure is powerful.

    However, I don’t think there are actually that many professors teaching pseudo-science on climate, since generally, those saying this stuff are rarely teaching climate science. Certainly, Monckton is not a professor :-)

    Now, if one catches someone clearing committing FFP (falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism), and files academic misconduct complaints, reputable universities take quick action, although sometimes they don’t, i.e., as in Strange Inquiries at GMU (Wegman).

    But people have to take the time to do that, and of course, people can write complete junk and skirt FFP.

  9. #9 Alan
    March 21, 2011

    Another aspect of this interests me. I have asked, on their respective web sites, Joanne Codling and Jennifer Marohasy to provide data that shows absence of warming, instead of merely criticising the imperfections in official meteorological records. The people who fund these two bloggers (and a host of other sources of disinformation) have enough money to undertake a simple data-gathering exercise. All over the world, there are many amateur sets of temperature and rainfall records, particularly from farms. Scan the pages, publish them on the web and analyse the figures, as http://blogs.zooniverse.org/oldweather/ is doing for ships’ logs.

    It is no wonder that their paymasters have not directed and paid for this research.

  10. #10 Another Kiwi
    March 21, 2011

    Ian Enting,do you have a thought on why these people do these things? Are they motivated by genuine alarm at perceived affects on the so-called life style prevalent in Western Developed economies? Thus they think the ends justifies the means. Or are they just hired to create fog, as it were.

  11. #11 John Mashey
    March 21, 2011

    re: 10 Another Kiwi [and I’m sorry for Christchurch, enjoyed several visits, walked through that church]

    I don’t know about Plimer & Pell specifically, but you might look at this catalog of reasons and which might apply, here.
    on categories at left:
    B1c Other Public Pell, maybe B1b Communicator
    B3 Scientist, other Plimer
    See this for more explanation.
    Reading across those lines might give you some ideas.

    One cannot do more than speculate, of course, for most cases, but I haven’t added any new plausible reasons to this for a while. I have seen instances I could reasonably ascribe to any of them, usually in combinations.
    Think of these reasons as atoms, and combinatiosn as molecules. It may well be that some molecules are quite common. By contrast, John Quiggin had a discussion a while back that started with a small number of common combinations.

  12. #12 monty
    March 21, 2011

    Re: savemejeebus:
    I completely agree. I was over at Judith’s place a while back and got involved with a rather unpleasant (and ignorant) poster called “Dr Jay Ladbury PhD” (or similar). I immediately started taking the piss. There’s another sceptic out there called “Dr Ben Bransby” I think who always trumpets his PhD. You are right to be suspicious…very rarely are their PhDs in relevant subjects. They are usually economists or engineers. I have a PhD in a relevant subject but don’t feel the need to advertise it with my blog name.

  13. #13 MikeH
    March 21, 2011

    [Media Watch](http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3169309.htm) this week covers the domination of day time talk back radio in Australian cities by presenters who are climate deniers. It appears that Plimer and Carter have been interviewed by almost all of them.

    They go on to explain

    Not one orthodox climate scientist – not one – has been interviewed by any of the climate sceptics on Fairfax stations.

    As for 2GB, its management said it didn’t have time to respond to our questions. But we’ve been able to find no evidence that Alan Jones or Chris Smith have interviewed any orthodox climate scientists this year.

  14. #14 DavidCOG
    March 21, 2011

    Lotharsson

    > Maybe they think [ad hominem] means merely “criticism of a named person”…

    Is there any term more misused than ‘ad hominem’? Most seem to whip it out because the argument in front of them upsets them.

    I usually respond to misuse with this:

    * [“It is most often introduced into a discussion by certain delicate types, delicate of personality and mind, whenever their opponents resort to a bit of sarcasm. As soon as the suspicion of an insult appears, they summon the angels of ad hominem to smite down their foes, before ascending to argument heaven in a blaze of sanctimonious glory. They may not have much up top, but by God, they don’t need it when they’ve got ad hominem on their side. It’s the secret weapon that delivers them from any argument unscathed.”](http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html)

  15. #15 Bernard J.
    March 21, 2011

    All I need is a punchy name to describe this phenomenon.

    PhDelirious?

    PhDelusional?

  16. #16 Pieter B
    March 21, 2011

    I like PhDelusional. PhDumb and PhDips**t might also work in some contexts.

    My stated position on climate science is this: I don’t know a lot about it, but I recognize the tactics used by denialists as the same ones used by creationists, therefore I am inclined to believe that they haven’t got a scientific leg to stand on.

  17. #17 Dave H
    March 21, 2011

    I’m sorry, but while I agree with the sentiment, I don’t think it’s a particularly fruitful line of argument.

    The obvious response is “if the science of AGW is so solid, why do they need to fabricate data/hide the decline/lie about glacier melt/insert talking point of the week here”.

    The approach doesn’t change any minds, and just opens the door to another pointless slanging match, which (when viewed by anyone not versed in the subject) ends up dismissed as he-said/she-said, and so you lose.

  18. #18 Wow
    March 21, 2011

    > The obvious response is “if the science of AGW is so solid, why do they need to fabricate data/hide the decline/lie about glacier melt/insert talking point of the week here”.

    True, but that query in a balanced journalism (where they still insist on getting two talking heads to argue in preference to doing some work themselves) gives you a lot of scope for proving the points.

    In the specific case, Plimer’s problem that the papers he cites do not say what he says.

    It’s pretty factual. You can read the same paper Plimer read and see for yourself.

    However, proving hide the decline means hiding data that shows AGW is wrong or not happening is impossible because you’d have to then say that one certain type of tree is better than a thermometer.

  19. #19 Anna Haynes
    March 21, 2011

    I’d like to refine (& to some extent disagree with) savemejeebus’s statement above that
    > “Anyone who points out the fact they have a PhD. during an argument, …anyone who says that they were awarded their degree from a well known institution…is compensating for a weak argument. … It is the classic case of misdirection”.

    I beg to differ, I think it depends on the context.

    I say this as someone who’s pointed out the fact that I have a PhD. during an argument, and have said that I was awarded my degree from a well known institution.
    :-)

    And I did it because, IMO, under the circumstances – in an amateurs vs. amateurs context, where I was arguing “we should listen to the experts” – it *is* relevant: someone with a science PhD (but who’s parachuting into the climate field & has no domain knowledge there) who says “science works” should be considered more credible than someone without a PhD who says “the science is bogus”.

    But indeed, the more you get beyond amateurs vs. amateurs, the less relevant the credential becomes, since what matters then is the evidence, which for experts is close at hand; and the credential’s irrelevant even in the “amateurs vs. amateurs” context, if the (amateur) PhD is saying “the science is bogus”.

    Does that make sense? The goal should be to provide the most relevant heuristic, and in some contexts, that heuristic is “I have a PhD, in Science”.

    (But once the science PhD-holder has become familiar with the common climate myths and the evidence against them, there’s less need to fall back on “trust me, I know that/how science works; we should listen to the experts”. I don’t feel the need to run around invoking mine anymore, thanks to climate bloggers and SkepticalScience.)

  20. #20 Anna Haynes
    March 21, 2011

    FYI, although the “definitive list of errors” by Enting is supposed to be available at
    http://www.complex.org.au/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=91
    …Firefox finds nothing there.

  21. #21 jerryg
    March 21, 2011

    Bernard J, how about PhuD (pronounced FUD) – spreading fear, uncertainty, and/or doubt using credentials which may be real or fake (bonus points for multiple degrees).

  22. #23 Another Kiwi
    March 21, 2011

    Thank you John Mashey I will look at that more closely. Christchurch is a great tragedy and heartbreak. It will never be the same again but it will be back on its feet eventually

  23. #24 Lotharsson
    March 22, 2011

    One “Tim Curtin” has shown up on the Ockham’s Razor thread, making claims including:

    > “… the complete absence in climate science, including in his own work, of the chemistry of combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, which reveals that H2O must also be a pollutant…”

    and referring to his “paper re Garnaut at http://www.lavoisier.com which uses both chemistry and regressions to disprove all his and Enting’s catechisms”.

  24. #25 bruced
    March 22, 2011

    Tim,
    bit off-topic but there is an excellent interview with Lord Deben, former UK Conservative environment minister at ABC The Drum from yesterday (21-MArch, http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/abc4, towards end of clip)
    Describes listening to Lord Monckton on climate change as equivalent to having Dame Edna Everidge set our foreign policy. But his main message is that it is Conservatives that should be leading on Climate Change policy, citing that Margaret Thatcher set to the initial UK policy.
    Similar comments were carried in an article about him in – surprise, surprise – http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/climate-change-action-is-the-right-thing/story-fn59niix-1226025037060

  25. #26 jakerman
    March 22, 2011

    Bruced, I thought there must be two brilliant conservative MP’s when I compared your story to [this one](http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/stories/2011/3168989.htm).Until I realised this was the same bloke.

  26. #27 Ian Enting
    March 22, 2011

    For anna@20.
    The link went down from Thursday evening to Tuesday morning due to: domain name lapsing, power outage, limited weekend support all coinciding. Seems to be back up now. Sorry about that.

    Thanks Tim for having copy on Deltoid.

    I hope to have an update out by end of next week. Minor corrections (including URL for UK Al Gore court case) and overview of pages 59-87 which is most of what Cardinal Pell relied on, and a few other things as well as additional indexing.

  27. #28 Ian Enting
    March 22, 2011

    For another kiwi@10

    While I think about it, I really don’t have any expertise or knowledge that is strong enough to pass on (especially in my uni role, since that is way outside my field).

    John Mashey’s list is interesting. I can think of names to fit his TEC5 case (which as he says is sad) and one who seems to be PSY2/TEC6. The Oreskes and Conway book “Merchants of Doubt” is mainly about IDE2. None of them seem a good fit for Plimer, which may mean that the whole classification only works from a distance, and once you get a lot of detail, you get to see a whole mixture.

  28. #29 Ian Enting
    March 22, 2011

    For another kiwi@10

    While I think about it, I really don’t have any expertise or knowledge that is strong enough to pass on (especially in my uni role, since that is way outside my field).

    John Mashey’s list is interesting. I can think of names to fit his TEC5 case (which as he says is sad) and one who seems to be PSY2/TEC6. The Oreskes and Conway book “Merchants of Doubt” is mainly about IDE2. None of them seem a good fit for Plimer, which may mean that the whole classification only works from a distance, and once you get a lot of detail, you get to see a whole mixture.

  29. #30 Jeremy C
    March 22, 2011

    Bruced,

    John Gummer/Deben has long been a Tory/conservative active in doing something about AGW, since he was environment minister in the UK pre 1997 and Tony Blair’s government. I can remember his Labor replacement, Michael Meacher, bringing Gummer along to international meetings to make use of him rather than leaving him to cool his heels on the opposition benches. And don’t forget in Australia we have Tories like Malcolm Turnbull and then there are people on the left who don’t believe AGW is occuring. I guess given the present poisonous political mindset over AGW enamating from the Liberals Turnbull would only waste political capital if he enters into the fight. If I was him I would hold fire until it looks like the most treasonous man in Australia, yes the one with the ears, throws one rhetorical/slogan punch too many and gets shown the door. Somedays I catch myself saying, “come back John Howard, all is forgiven” which causes me to shake my head in disbelief. Sorry for any non Australian’s reading this and for any American’s, yes, in Australia we have more wingnuts per head of population than you guys do and one day it may even come down to the ROW saying to Australia, “you give up coal or we will no longer trade with you”.

  30. #31 Another Kiwi
    March 23, 2011

    Thank you Ian

  31. #32 CJ Morgan
    March 23, 2011

    On a related note, it may surprise some readers here to learn that Graham Young, editor of the denialist-friendly On Line Opinion forum, is now claiming that he [“believes the globe is getting warmer because of emissions of CO2″](http://www.ambitgambit.com/2011/03/17/dating-the-decline/).

    Strangely, he doesn’t seem to want to discuss this development.

  32. #33 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2011

    > Strangely, he doesn’t seem to want to discuss this development.

    And he ALSO believes:

    > The Hockey Stick graph is the best litmus test of whether someone is honest or knowledgeable about global warming. If they defend it, then they are either not one nor the other, and possibly not both.

    And by golly he’s going to stick to discussing the original Hockey Stick rather than any subsequent reconstructions if it kills him!

  33. #34 jakerman
    March 24, 2011

    >*The Hockey Stick graph is the best litmus test of whether someone is honest or knowledgeable about global warming.*

    Maybe he’s correct?

    >If they defend it [if they magnify the scale of its errors, if they use this distortion of its limitations to smear scientist, and claim fruad where there was none; if they use these so called ‘skeptics’ distortions as their litmus test] then they are either not one nor the other, and possibly not both.”

  34. #35 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2011

    My thoughts precisely, jakerman.

    You notice in that thread that when he’s called out for moving the goalposts he accuses the caller of moving the goalposts.

    Psychological projection in action…

  35. #36 jakerman
    March 24, 2011

    BTW, is Science Blogs still working like a dead dog for anyone else?

  36. #37 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2011

    jakerman, I get about 2/3 of page load attempts to work and a reload usually fixes the rest reasonably promptly.

  37. #38 Wow
    March 24, 2011

    It could be sitecounter or adsense or similar giving you gyp then.

    Third party tracking sites don’t care if your experience on this site is good or not, just so long as they can advertise you.

  38. #39 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2011

    > …just so long as they can advertise you.

    What’s advertising? ;-) And why would I want them to advertise me – doesn’t my reputation already precede me? ;-)

  39. #40 Wow
    April 8, 2011

    I know you’re just funning, but the spam kings aren’t making money from selling services to the people clicking on spam links. They’re making money by selling a list of a million potential customers to worthless marketing departments who have no idea how to measure the effectiveness of a campaign except by the number of people they “reach”.

    similarly, adsense make money not from you clicking on their affiliated customers links but rather sell the idea that you will do so to the marketing departments of these affiliates.

Current ye@r *