Plimer suffers from crank magnetism

Crank magnetism is the tendency of someone attracted to one crank idea to be attracted to more. Ian Plimer, already notable for his acceptance of the iron Sun theory and the volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans theory has now been revealed as believing (like Christopher Booker) that white asbestos is harmless. But Plimer has gone beyond that to denying that white asbestos (chrysotile) is even asbestos:

MATT PEACOCK: Well can I ask you a simple question about your expertise, rocks? A few years ago you told me chrysotile was not asbestos, is that right?

IAN PLIMER: Chrysotile’s a serpentine mineral. That is absolutely correct. Mineralogically it’s a serpentine mineral.

MATT PEACOCK: So it’s not asbestos?

IAN PLIMER: It is called commercially asbestos. The mineral chrysotile is a serpentine mineral.

MATT PEACOCK: Even the asbestos industry calls it asbestos. I mean the town Asbestos mines chrysotile.

IAN PLIMER: As I said it’s called commercially asbestos.

MATT PEACOCK: But scientifically…

IAN PLIMER: However …

MATT PEACOCK: With respect, Professor, it’s called asbestos scientifically too.

IAN PLIMER: I’m sorry. You are just a journalist. I have spent my life studying minerals. Look up any basic mineralogy textbook, the sort of thing that we give to 18-year-old students at university, and you’ll see that chrysotile is a serpentine mineral.

MATT PEACOCK: Called asbestos.

IAN PLIMER: A family of serpentine minerals.

MATT PEACOCK: Called asbestos.

IAN PLIMER: Whereas asbestos minerals are amphibole minerals.

MATT PEACOCK: Amphibole like crocidolite and amosite, but chrysotile is part of the family called asbestos. Is it not?

IAN PLIMER: I am sorry. You are demonstrating mass ignorance. You are out of your depth. I invite you to come to some elementary first year mineralogy lectures and you will learn…

Needless to say, textbooks classify white asbestos as a form of asbestos. It’s one thing for Plimer to make basic errors about climate science or the health effects of white asbestos, areas where he has no expertise, but it’s another thing to get basic mineralogy wrong, something on which he is supposed to have expertise.

If you think that Plimer being this blatantly wrong would shake the confidence of his supporters, you are unfamiliar with Tim Blair, who describes it as merely an ‘attempted “gotcha!”‘

(Hat tip: Lionel A)

And while Plimer’s crank magnetism has, so far, not made him embrace Creationism, he has, in his new book, fully adopted the Creationist tactic of loading up school children with loaded questions for their teachers. He even borrowed the title from a Creationist movie.

As for the content of Plimer’s new book, it just repeats some of the numerous errors in Heaven and Earth as Ian Enting details here. Plimer’s response to Enting was shamelessly dishonest, as Graham Readfearn explains:

Professor Plimer claimed there was no way that Melbourne University’s Professor Ian Enting, who appeared on the show as a critic, could have read a copy of his book, which former Australian Prime Minister John Howard endorsed at an event earlier this week.

Professor Plimer said on air: “The book came out and was launched last night [Monday December 12] in Sydney. [Professor Enting] could not possibly have read a copy of this book. He is making things up and just skating on thin ice.”

Yet it was Plimer himself who officially launched the book at an IPA-organised event on November 24 in Melbourne a full 18 days earlier. The Sydney event was a second launch.

Also, check out Plimer vs Plimer, where Plimer contradicts himself.


  1. #1 Roger Jones
    December 21, 2011

    Oh My,

    Plimer gets his scientific point-scoring wrong. The term asbestiform is a morphological characteristic of minerals, not a mineralogical characteristic. So it applies to the same descriptive form of amphiboles and serpentines.

    Dug out my old copy of Deer, Howie and Zussman from my undergrad days (Intro to the rock forming minerals). H’mmm, must have been a geologist once. Makes me a class traitor, crossing over to the radiative forcing team, along with most of the Earth Scientists I know. Poor Plimey!

  2. #2 yaafah
    December 21, 2011

    Man you guys are some funny folk. Can’t have an opinion based in reality? Everyone’s a “troll”? Weak.

    I never intimated that Dr. Mann, or any scientist, was in it to get rich. But they most certainly want to make a living doing what they love. Or will they do it for free they are so noble? Horseshit.

    Let’s see. Where to start?

    I work in the US. I am a consultant for capital lab purchases, primarily for scientific equipment. Spent the last three days in two of our top government labs in the southwest US. I get paid to work with scientists to help them do science on a regular basis. Contrary to Mr. Forrester’s assertion, some grant money does in fact help pay for the salaries–or at a minimum they get to use it at their discretion as long as it is justified by their use of time–of many principal investigators. I.e. you can “pay yourself” for the work you do on that project from the grant. They, like I, have a salary, but it needs to be supplemented in part through grant money. Cancer researchers, biologists, material scientists. All of them. Yes, they need to pay for their post docs, lab equipment, etc. but they get to keep some as well. Fine. In fact, great!

    Here’s the kicker, I never, not once, insinuated there was a conspiracy, or even that there was anything–aside from the way the funding is done on some levels–even wrong with this process. It’s necessary! However, just like anyone else, in any profession, scientists are not immune to the same human foibles as, say, dentists. They need to make a living. As such, they work the system just like anyone does. I see it everyday. Standard procedure. Problem is, the US–especially the DOE–encourages this in the way they fund. I am not saying scientists are crooks, or cranks, or criminals, or conspirators. They do what they have to do to get by. Unfortunately, HUGE sums of money are pissed away because of the way much of the the funding is doled out. And lots of good, needed, research get unfunded because other, less useful, studies get the high profile cash.

    So, I am not in denial. I do wish good for my family, and yours. I don’t abuse the planet. But when I read the total, unmitigated bullshit some of you sling, I find it laughable. And sad. Because, as I said, I think you do more harm than good.

    I’ll get out of your kitchen now if you like. Doesn’t change anything. “Science” is simply not the pure business you would have many believe. Many people use he term “scientists” as synonymous with “saint”. In fact, scientists work on many, many projects that many would consider sinister, not noble. Do climate scientists get a free pass because their cause is noble?

    Dismiss me. Don’t give a shit. Seen it here a hundred times. With reasoned people. And, more appropriately, with idiots. I believe in an anthropogenic component to a warming planet. I don’t believe fear is a good motivator. Nor is being a dick a good way to convey a message.

    My handle is an acronym. See if you can suss it out.

  3. #3 MikeH
    December 21, 2011

    yaafah @ 102
    “My handle is an acronym. See if you can suss it out”

    Something to do with being a pathetic lying weasel full of piss and wind who linked to a WSJ witchhunt article titled “Michael Mann’s Climate Stimulus” and then claimed “I never intimated that Dr. Mann, or any scientist, was in it to get rich.”

  4. #4 bill
    December 21, 2011

    Nor is being a dick a good way to convey a message.

    And your own abrasive style is not that of ‘a dick’, or an ‘idiot’ for that matter, and is a great way to win friends and influence people? Intriguing…

    PS – I rather think people are actually attracted to Deltoid for the no-holds-barred aspect of it, and your own behaviour fits the pattern neatly.

    I mean, hell, we’re hardly saints, are we? 😉

    SkS and RealClimate are more the venues for polite(r) debate. (How great their success in converting Deniers really is I really couldn’t tell you. After all, anyone able to be persuaded by evidence should have made up their minds in favour of the overwhelming scientific majority ages ago on the basis of the precautionary principle alone. You’re not a Denier yourself, so you should not find this statement objectionable.)

    You can still learn plenty here, but you may well get jostled along the way. In the circumstances, tone-trolling always seems, well, rather dishonest.

    PPS – you seem to have developed a pattern of holding out some supposed tid-bit for people to ask you about. Please either just tell us what you acronym means, or don’t bother mentioning it in the first place.

  5. #5 Rattus Norvegicus
    December 21, 2011


    I think your acronym would be more appropriate if it was iaafah.

  6. #6 Marco
    December 22, 2011

    I think MikeH hit the nail on its head. Yaafah, how can you even remotely consider to link to that WSJ piece and NOT realise that it implicitely claims Mann’s research is just an elaborate fraud?

  7. #7 ianam
    December 22, 2011

    Yep, because nobody is funding the “other side”.

    Tu quoque fallacy. I posted that in response to “It’s not big oil we are battling …”; whether anyone is funding the vast majority climate scientists who accept AGW based on the evidence is irrelevant.

    Nice Wiki cite. No bias there.

    Strawman … see above. If you have evidence that we are not fighting big oil, go ahead and offer it.

    My handle is an acronym. See if you can suss it out.

    It stands for “projection” and “Dunning Kruger effect”.

  8. #8 ianam
    December 22, 2011

    Nor is being a dick a good way to convey a message.

    My handle is an acronym. See if you can suss it out.

    The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

    Listen, you fah, all your blather is completely and utterly beside the point. We all agree that scientists want to get paid; duh. That has nothing to do with what I wrote, and that you think it does makes you an idiot.

    Oil companies fund climate science too.

    Oil companies fund obfuscation. The only climate scientists whom they fund are those who, for whatever reason, go against the scientific consensus and the accumulated evidence, just as with the tobacco companies. That you put it as you do, as if it were some neutral activity of funding science, demonstrates that you are an idiot and intellectually dishonest.

  9. #9 ianam
    December 22, 2011

    I don’t believe fear is a good motivator.

    Numerous politicians, going back to antiquity, would disagree … along with psychologists. The research shows that whether fear appeals produce behavior changes or defensiveness depends upon whether they are accompanied by “high-efficacy messages” … i.e., whether one is presented with a supposedly effective strategy to remove the cause of the fear. Unfortunately, we’re a bit short on those in re GW.

  10. #10 zoot
    December 22, 2011

    I am a consultant for capital lab purchases, primarily for scientific equipment.

    A salesman, not a scientist.

  11. #11 ianam
    December 22, 2011

    I just happen to think ianam, and Wow, and other smarmy assholes like them do more to push people in the other direction than they do to convince anyone of their opinion or the opinion of scientists.

    Yeah, and the reason that so many religious people reject evolution is because of that smarmy asshole Richard Dawkins (this idiotic argument has been made, repeatedly).

    But what you “just happen to think” is irrelevant, not merely because it is unsupported opinion, but because it is not my intent to convince the sorts of denier garbage that trolls Deltoid of anything — they are too intellectually dishonest to be reached.

  12. #12 Bernard J.
    December 22, 2011


    >My handle is an acronym. See if you can suss it out.

    Easy – “You are all fantastic, admirable heroes”.

    Thank you for the compliment. It’s good to see that in spite of your apparent bluster, you realise that our efforts to counter the abhorent actions of climate change denialists are worthy and admirable.

  13. #14 zoot
    December 22, 2011

    Yet another anti-science failed arse hat??

  14. #15 ianam
    December 22, 2011

    (or perhaps, given he’s apparently an American cousin, it’s ‘you all are’, with or without the hyphen)

    That’s Southern dialectic, not standard American.

  15. #16 Bernard J.
    December 22, 2011

    Whilst we’re in the mood for delivering some well-deserved mocking, perhaps Plimer might consider calling crysolite I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-asbestos…

    Or perhaps Clayton’s asbestos: the asbestos that’s killing you, when you’re not dying from asbestos exposure.

  16. #17 Stu
    December 22, 2011

    Tone trolling? Check.
    I am one of you? Check.
    I am on your side? Check.
    You’re just being meanies? Check.
    Tu quoque? Check.
    You’re not helping? Check.

    This clown would be an instant hit at the Intersection. Heck, why not go straight for a Templeton?

  17. #18 Roger Dewhurst
    December 24, 2011

    See Dana’s Textbook of Mineralogy.

    Plimer is correct. Crocidolite, blue asbestos, monoclinic, appears to be a variety of riebeckite, an amphibole mineral. Crysotile, white asbestos, is a variety of serpentine a group related to the micas. There is no ‘class’ of asbestos minerals.

  18. #19 frank -- Decoding SwiftHack
    December 24, 2011

    Roger Dewhurst,

    If “there is no ‘class’ of asbestos minerals”, then what on earth did Plimer mean when he said that “asbestos minerals are amphibole minerals”? Does not compute.

    — frank

  19. #20 ianam
    December 24, 2011

    Plimer is correct.

    Sigh. Plimer made a number of assertions, some of which are true and undisputed, and some of which are false. If you are claiming that he was correct about some disputed statement then you should demonstrate the minimal intelligence of specifying which one you are defending.

    There is no ‘class’ of asbestos minerals.

    Why are you putting in quotes a word that was never used?

  20. #21 ianam
    December 24, 2011

    you should demonstrate the minimal intelligence


  21. #22 Bernard J.
    December 25, 2011

    What is it with these geologists?!

    Plimer attempts the argument that only amphibole minerals are called astbestos (and by implication, carcinogenic). As many have shown, this is claim about nomenclature is incorrect.

    Dewhurst rushes to Plimer’s rescue by trying to introduce the strawman that there is “no ‘class’ of asbestos minerals”, as if this were Plimer’s point. In fact is is most decidely not Plimer’s point, as is shown in the transcript:

    >IAN PLIMER: Whereas asbestos minerals are amphibole minerals.

    So, not only is Dewhurst engaging in an argument that:

    1) is irrelevant to the discussion here about asbestos minerals (everyone accepts the triviality that chrysotile is a serpentine mineral, and that crocidolite and amosite are amphibole minerals) and,

    2) is in fact an argument that corroborates Matt Peacock’s fundamental point,

    he is contradicting:

    3) Plimer, and

    4) his own claim that “Plimer is correct”.

    There seems to be a serious issue with logic, or more specifically with a lack thereof, amongst a sub-group of earth ‘scientists’…

  22. #23 Fran Barlow
    December 26, 2011

    Best wishes to all those in the Deltoid ‘family’ i.e those contributing their support to science-based policy on the key question of dealing with anthropogenic climate change. All of you can be proud at being on the side of human well-being. Thank you Tim for providing this vital space.

    To those not so described, I wish you early and comprehensive insight into the consequences of what you are doing and how you will be recalled by those living in the middle and latter part of this century.

  23. #24 ianam
    December 26, 2011

    What is it with these geologists?!

    Oil (industry ideology) on the brain.

    Denialist crank Dewhurst is a co-founder of the denialist crank organization [New Zealand Climate Science Coalition](

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