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25 October, 2011

How Muddy Thinking Sticks

In the latest issue of The Skeptic, (31, 3. September 2011), you may read “How Mud Sticks”, by Dr Ullrich Ecker and Dr Stephan Lewandowsky, wherein the learned authors, and professors of psychology, explain that sceptics are more likely to distinguish “the right from the wrong”—whereby they mean, I suppose, distinguishing fact from fiction—; but, unfortunately, when considering the pseudo-scientific conjecture of anthropogenic global warming, both professors are credulously silly.  Ullrich and Lewandowsky use the political terminology “climate change” when, apparently, they refer to anthropogenic global warming; they hypocritically calumniate former Senator Nick Minchin, a true sceptic of AGW (who correctly asserts that the climate has always changed and always will), as a “denier”; and the supposed academics cite Wikipedia as a source whilst uncritically accepting, seemingly, the bogus claims in Merchants of Doubt by the mendacious Oreskes and Conway:
learning that some prominent climate change deniers, such as outgoing Australian Senator Minchin, also long denied the adverse health effects of tobacco21,22 may make [meaning, I expect, “ought to make”] people more suspicious of all their claims involving scientific issues.
In general, a healthy sense of skepticism makes you better at telling the right from the wrong.  [...]
[end notes] 21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_ Minchin
22. Oreskes, N., & Conway, A. M. (2010). Merchants of Doubt. New York: Bloomsbury Press.
It is true that “a healthy sense of skepticism” generally helps educated people to distinguish objective facts from politically correct fiction, so it is a pity that Ecker and Lewandowsky refuse to analyse the multitudinous fraudulent, far-fetched, self-serving claims of awarmists with appropriate scepticism.  Furthermore, Ecker and Lewandowsky stupidly, deceptively and dishonestly conflate Minchin’s reasonable, legitimate, scientific doubts (such as whether passive smoking might cause various ill effects) with the tobacco industry’s alleged refusal to acknowledge the undoubted toxicity of tobacco.

UPDATE I:  see “Upset intellectuals”, by John Izzard, at Quadrant Online:
What has happened to some of our unhappy intellectuals is that they are now confronted with a new concept, science-politics.  Science-politics follows closely on the heels of history-politics, which was first spotted in academia in the writings by historians of Aboriginal history.  The basic premise of history-politics was that you can force political change upon a country, and its citizens, by re-jigging history to achieve a desired political outcome.  That is, create a feeling of guilt, then work on the guilt factor to demand change.  It works a treat.  It really does. 
Science-politics surfaced when climate-theory scientists suddenly found, after the release of the first IPCC report, that they were under serious questioning from not only fellow scientists, but members of the general public.  Suddenly the cosy world of the IPCC was exposed to scrutiny, both in the media and by the newly emerging internet community.  Hitherto unimaginable amounts of information were suddenly available to the public about, not only the scientific methods used by the IPCC, but also the rather unsavoury political games that they were playing with the public’s mind.  And they were fairly adroit at character assassination of their dissenting scientific colleagues. 
Australians (79%) had become very suspicious, perhaps when they first learnt that the IPCC only accepted scientific research and reports from scientists who totally agreed with their climate-science.  They then became further concerned when they read of the University of East Anglia climate unit’s jigging of figures and tweaking computer models to fit in with their theories.  But the most curious mistake the “most qualified and knowledgeable” made, was the too-clever-by-far spin that the science “was settled”.  It wasn’t.  It isn’t!
UPDATE IIsee also Stuart Schneiderman on “the Global Warming Cult”, Lisa Friedman, in Scientific American, on “New Research Casts Doubt on Doomsday Water Shortage Predictions”, Marc Morano’s “Scientific case for man-made global warming fears is dead”, Michael Barone’s “Cult of Global Warming Is Losing Influence”, and John O’Sullivan’s “Skeptic Economist in Critical Assessment of Climate Consensus”.

UPDATE III:  from the Dissenting Report of Senators Nick Minchin and Sue Knowles from The Tobacco Industry and the Costs of Tobacco-Related Illness: Report of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee (December, 1995):
Senator Minchin believes that:
Proponents of bans on smoking in the workplace and other public places base their demands on the premise that tobacco in the air—passive smoking—can harm the health of non-smokers.
These claims are not yet conclusively proved.  For example, it has been estimated that in a workplace that permits smoking, it would take between 260 and 1000 hours for a non-smoking worker to be exposed to the nicotine equivalent of a single cigarette.  A worker might be exposed to between 2 and 4 cigarette equivalents in a full year of work.  It has also been estimated that it would take 300 hours of dining in a restaurant that permits smoking, to be exposed to the nicotine equivalent of one cigarette.  [p. 121]
UPDATE IV:  see also Climate Nonconformist’s “Has he even listened to a skeptic?

UPDATE V:  meanwhile, in the world of scientific publishing (involving the vaunted but flawed peer-review process so beloved of awarmists), read Richard Van Noorden’s “Science publishing: The trouble with retractions”:
This week, some 27,000 freshly published research articles will pour into the Web of Science, Thomson Reuters’ vast online database of scientific publications.  Almost all of these papers will stay there forever, a fixed contribution to the research literature.  But 200 or so will eventually be flagged with a note of alteration such as a correction.  And a handful—maybe five or six—will one day receive science’s ultimate post-publication punishment:  retraction, the official declaration that a paper is so flawed that it must be withdrawn from the literature.
In comments to the above article, Prof. Brian J. Morris adds:
What does one do when the journal appears complicit in the publication of seriously flawed data when one has provided a scathing critique as an invited peer reviewer for the manuscript?  This happened to me earlier this year for a journal with a good reputation and impact factor of over 5.  The paper in question was scientifically flawed, grossly distorted the literature in the field clearly to progress the authors' stated personal agenda.  The statistical analyses were erroneous.  I recommended rejection, but after being sent a revised version in which virtually none of my extensive list of initial criticisms was addressed I stated that extensive corrections were required.  When it then appeared on-line in advance I offered to write an editorial and then submitted one for publication so that readers would be made aware of the serious flaws.  Two months later the journal rejected this and offered to consider it as a Letter to the Editor.  I have been waiting 4 months and still no decision.  The paper in question should be retracted.  I can understand that the Editors might be embarrassed that this paper slipped through in to print.  But their failure to take any steps to date to address the situation that has arisen now leads to an impression of complicity.
UPDATE VI (26 October):  of course, if Ecker and Lewandowsky really believed what they wrote they might consider that learning of the bias and duplicity of the IPCC’s alleged experts ought to “make people more suspicious of all their claims involving scientific issues”.  They would do well to read Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.


UPDATE VII (26 October):  see Simon’s Environmental activism taints research” at Australian Climate Madness.

UPDATE VIII (29 October):  for more on The Delinquent Teenager, see London Book Review here and here.

UPDATE IX (29 October):  Luboš Motl, fittingly, describes awarmists as numerologists (when, perhaps, they’re not working on phrenological or astrological charts).

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