The benthic bacteria spoof

Daniel Cressey summarizes the story of the spoof paper that pretended to prove that global warming was caused by benthic bacteria rather than humans. He also has an interview with the author of the spoof. David Thorpe, who helped set it up, explains why he did it on his blog.

Fooled were such folks as Benny Peiser, Ron Bailey and Rush Limbaugh.

Global warming skeptics have offered excuses for those fooled. Roy Spencer said:

Even though the hoax was quite elaborate, and the paper looked genuine, a little digging revealed that the authors, research center, and even the scientific journal the study was published in, did not exist.

While Iain Murray writes

Congratulations to Mr Thorpe on his eye for detail and the work that must have gone in to producing such a convincing-looking study at first sight.

But the paper did not look genuine, and no digging was needed to realize that it was a spoof.

Read the paper. It's actually pretty funny, with stuff like this.

Q³uct + 3Ψ = XFº x Δjy {(∑y,ct79 + θtq-1)- λjc +2}


Where Q is raw mass, u is area, c is osmotic conductivity, Ψ is the vertical (neo-Falkian) benthic discontinuity, X is concretised diachronic invariance (P-series), F is trans-dimensional flow structure and jy is the non-rectilineal harmonic regressivity of the constant Δ.

That's not convincing looking or intended to be convincing looking. Unfortunately the graphs are no longer available, but they should have given the game away to anyone with the slightest familiarity with global warming because they showed entirely fictional graphs of global temperature, showing it as a straight line with regular small sawtooth deviations from that. If you've ever looked at a graph of global temperatures, you would know that they don't look like that.

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I suppose it's a natural impulse when you're taken in by a hoax to immediately declare how brilliant a sham it was. Okay, there was a veneer of verisimilitude that fooled the credulous, but the dupes must be thoroughly mathematically illiterate if they thought the equations were anything other than gibberish. It goes to show how superficial and innumerate the denialists are.

I'm reminded of the "math" used by Levi-Strauss or Huntington, but that was at least simpler. [Link]

Funny, indeed! But a sensmoral of the report is to show how bad science works. The climate of course reacts with no difference between antropogenic CO2 and CO2 from other sources, but here a connection (true or constructed doesn't matter...) was presented. Didn't Michael Mann doing just this? Construct a covariance? Also the claimed but never proved coldnes from aerosols between 1945 and 1975 is an example of construction of covariance, where the aerosols "helps" CO2 covariates with global temperature. Recently empirical science has shown aerosols don't cool the earth, but heat it. Oops!

I'm more or less a scintist myself, and a "denier" (I really don't like these invective of political agendas), and don't like Rush Limbaugh or any political engagement in this issue.

I think the rush for political action is not science based and - as an alarming package - are very dangerous.

Regards, Magnus

By Magnus Andersson (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

Sensmoral = moral. Sorry for my mixed swedish-english language.

By Magnus Andersson (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

More to the point, any attempt to argue that increases in atmospheric CO2 are natural rather than man-made has to explain how it could be that man-made emissions exceed> the measured atmospheric increase. This logically requires that the natural environment be a net carbon sink. Any carbon released by some natural source must be more than balanced out by carbon being absorbed somewhere else. The only way that human activity wouldn't be responsible for increased atmospheric concentrations is if carbon sinks could somehow magically discriminate between natural and man-made emissions.

So in my mind, the real shame is not that they got taken in by a bunch of sciencey sounding jargon, but that they didn't realize from reading the abstract that the basic argument being put forth is nonsense.

Hi all

Much like chemists (like myself) being fooled by di hydro mono oxide, luckily for me I passed the test.

Peter Bickle

By Peter Bickle (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

Steve: If the text gives someone the impression that the major CO2 emissions that increase the CO2 concentration are not from burned fossil oil but from a bacteria, then some people will allways get fooled.

More seious is how so many quite intelligent people within science (not morons like Rush) could be fooled by Manns "hockestick" graph and his claim that there where no *global* medieval warming or little ice age. The science 1998 proved he's wrong. The very obvious case of fraud it was one should ask the question.

By Magnus Andersson (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

BTW: The document is absolutely hillirious!

I think I also gonna write some reports, maybe not to be added as peer reviewed in my CV...

By Magnus Andersson (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

Magnus Anderson, you are extraordinarily ill-informed. See here and here. You are displaying exactly the same credulity about the misinformation that some lobby groups promulgate via their websites that who swallowed David Thorpe's spoof demonstrated. Someone who had any scepticism in the true sense of the word would check their facts before posting, rather than swallowing misinformation as readily as you have.

By Dave Rado (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

Well that's just beautiful! What's not to like about Roy Spencer's form as Rush Limbaugh's "scientific advisor"?

I sent an e-mail to Rush about the issue regarding the hoax, with a copy of the "research study". Unfortunately, my very brief note to Rush was not very clear, and he thought that I was calling global warming a hoax, rather than the study. Even though Rush has told me not to worry about it, and that "the buck stops here" with him, I just wanted to apologize to everyone for this misunderstanding, as I feel that better wording on my part would have prevented this from happening.

Imagine the delusionals' excitement on seeing the concluding paragraphs of the "study":

... we lay our careers on the line. As we have found in seeking to broach this issue gently with colleagues, and in attempting to publish these findings in other peer-reviewed journals, the "consensus" on climate change is enforced not by fact but by fear. We have been warned, collectively and individually, that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardise the funding of the departments for which we work."

That stuff found willing and happy ears!
There ought to be more of this kind of thing :)

"Recently empirical science has shown aerosols don't cool the earth, but heat it. Oops!"

That must be why global temperature shoots upward every time there is a major volcanic eruption. Or maybe not.

More seriously, since it was apparently missed the first million times, some aerosols cause cooling (e.g. sulfates) and some cause warming (e.g. black carbon). We've known this for some time.

They should give Mr Thorpe a Nobel Peace prize - At least let him join the IPCC team of 'political' scientists. Then with research like that he may even outclass some of the other idiots in his team!

Oh well, my liberal lab mates fell for the April 1 headline on slashdot about Bush canceling the shuttle program. We believe what we want to believe. I fell for the BS about the Clinton's bumping off all their rivals.

This is not a propos the bacteria spoof (for which I thank Great Mithras) but rather me still whinging about the absolutely demented xxxx Weblog Awards:

The categories are a right-wing sop to begin with. Clearly, they are freeped hard by right-wing elements; it's my speculation based on what occurred this year that they also do what the excerable Truth Laid Bear fraud does, namely, when a liberal does well and yet it's close, come up with some reason to scale the liberal back a bit. In short, it's a Diebold web election.

I have always lobbied for people to STOP using the stupid, so-called, TTLB ecosystem, but mostly to no avail. Well, I also think the "Weblog Awards" are not only another rigged game, but an extension of the other one.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 11 Nov 2007 #permalink

If the spoon benders are any precedent, we'll soon see the argument that, although it was intended as a hoax, they inadvertently stumbled on the truth.

"in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardise the funding of the departments for which we work."

I'd have been in no position to perpetrate something as elaborate, but I have long considered that a blog from a fictional disillusioned climate scientist (who feels that truth is being suppressed in the search for funding and now wishes to expose it all) would have found many willing readers.

By Iain George (not verified) on 12 Nov 2007 #permalink

Magnus Andersson:

More seious is how so many quite intelligent people within science (not morons like Rush) could be fooled by Manns "hockestick" graph and his claim that there where no global medieval warming

Looking at the proxies used in MBH99, it appears that the following proxies have no medieval period warmer than any other time: Polar Urals, Tasmania, N. Patagonia, France, Greenland dO18, Quelccaya dO18, Quelccaya accum. and of course the infamous N. America. The only proxy with a medieval period warmer than any other time is Fennoscandia, but I guess if you come from Sweden this is more important than the rest of the world put together.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 12 Nov 2007 #permalink

They wrote:

> we are not only likely to be deprived of all future
> sources of funding, but that we also jeopardise the
> funding of the departments for which we work

And now look -- they've been wiped from history as though they never existed.

Surely this proves something.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 12 Nov 2007 #permalink

> Oh well, my liberal lab mates fell for the April 1 headline on slashdot about Bush canceling the shuttle program.

They were praising Bush for canceling the program?

I hope everyone read the citations through. Mind you, I couldn't swear to the nonexistence of some of those journals cited, but I do like

...a refinement of the Hering-Circassian calibration system. Science 441:8. 667-675

because 441 is one of favorite volumes of Science, or will be many years from now when it's published.

But it doesn't come close to --swallowed all your coffee, everyone? Ok, then--

Tibbold, WR and JD Rawsthorne (1998). Miocene, Pliocene and Plasticine fossil records for eukaryotic mass on the West African continental shelf. Journal of Submarine Research 18:5. 196-203.

Now that is better than Sokal.

Benny et al picked up the rat smell nearly immediately. Unfortunately for him, he hit the send button slightly more immediately.

I read the thing after it was loudly declared a hoax by the so-called denialists. I laughed my ass off. Reminded me very much of Mann and Gore.

The whole thing is thick with irony. Or whatever that thing is that people always call irony, even if it's not. You get the picture.

By Kyle Huff (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink

You get the picture.

yes, we do, clearly, and it's not flattering to Kyle Huff.

Even my (accountant) wife was able to pick it out as a fake just from reading the abstract. The tone was entirely wrong.

By Paul McKay (not verified) on 14 Nov 2007 #permalink

It is so very sad that denialists clutched this to their bosom and murmured thanks to God for this clear proof, without having actually READ the damn thing. It should be clear to anyone with a decent university education that this is a spoof. My spouse and I alternated between giggles and guffaws as we plodded through a hoax that was obviously complete horse shit.

This is in no way more ludricous than the literature regarding cosmic ray fluctuations as the cause of climate change.

It's Decembaer 15, at 9:00 PM. I started checking if we are getting an ice age tonight, (Muskego WI ) here. I read we were getting both, ice age and global warming.. I ended up in this setting, reading the story of the hoax. I can't get it to come up, it doesn't exist any longer.Your comments are fascinating. I am not a blog reader usually. I am a 60 year old highly educated baby boomer who protests different wars.
I am looking at a map of USA on the weather channel while writing this. I have an acre of land I am preserving. It is so beautiful I thank God for reminding me what the Earth used to look like here 200 years ago. We had swamps, and ponds and lakes and big trees. Now we have a swamp, a small pond, small lake nearby and three big old oaks. Lots of new little oaks. I wish I knew the age range of those writing in this blog series. I have thirty years to live I assume, unless I freeze, or dehydrate, or get some disease. How long do some of you have.???? Please respond. Don't know if I'll find this location again,,, so will give my email. I know that's risky and not private or even socially correct, but I don't mind. KathyF at michafsch@aol. Hope you are all safe and still medium cool or medium warm.