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Sunday, January 5, 2014

More of the Ludicrous: Judith Curry's Eye-Catching Merchants of Doubt

Sou | 5:51 PM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment

Talk about ludicrous. While Anthony Watts and his WUWT followers are obsessed with a ship stuck in ice, with 16 of the past 47 articles devoted to that subject, I see that Judith Curry has gone into full-on science denying mode with her weekend "things that caught her eye".

Just look at what has caught her eye.  It's a short "who's who" of Merchants of Doubt. (Archived here.)

Richard Lindzen - fake sceptics are disorganised

The first thing that caught Judith's eye was a puff piece on Richard Lindzen, who has "gone emeritus" at MIT.  In the article it has such gaffes as this:
Judging by where we are now, he appears to have a point; so far, 150 years of burning fossil fuels in large quantities has had a relatively minimal effect on the climate. By some measurements, there is now more CO2 in the atmosphere than there has been at any time in the past 15 million years. Yet since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the average global temperature has risen by, at most, 1 degree Celsius, or 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Relatively minimal effect?  If you call global surface temperatures rising faster than ever and on pace to rise ten times faster than in 65 million years as "relatively minimal" - right!  How's this for a "relatively minimal effect" - blue and green is where we've been and red is where we are heading:

Adapted from Jos Hagelaars

John McLean - of "2011 temperatures will be lower than 1956" infamy

Next Judith says that John McLean's article in the Age "caught her eye".  This is the same John McLean who co-authored the thoroughly discredited paper about ENSO and who predicted, in 2011, that surface temperatures in 2011 would drop to or below those of 1956!  Judith quoted this paragraph (just in case you doubted how far she's slithered):
The reality is that the IPCC is in effect little more than a UN-sponsored lobby group, created specifically to investigate and push the ”man-made warming” line. With no similar organisations to examine other potential causes of climate change, it’s only the IPCC voice that is heard. But the IPCC’s voice isn’t heard in context and with all the necessary caveats; it’s distorted via the UNFCCC and others who imply that the IPCC is the sole scientific authority on climate matters.

Goodness only knows why The Age gave John McLean a voice.  It doesn't make a habit of giving column space to cranks.  The article is archived here.  No point encouraging The Age.  It is just a muted conspiracy theory about the UN and the IPCC playing a giant hoax on the human race.  (Are all fake sceptics sexist? I hate to admit it, but I reckon women have something to do with "keeping the coal-fires burning".  It's not all man-made.)

Pat Michaels - science is "flashy" therefore wrong

Next Judith hails professional disinformer Pat Michaels, who writes an article with no substance and lots of innuendo - re-published on the Cato Institute website. He's arguing that because the flashy journals publish flashy research, then denier research doesn't get a guernsey or some such nonsense. His logic goes like this:

  • Science and Nature are biased to the flashy
  • Pat Michaels sorted the climate articles in these journals into piles and decided that most climate articles were "worse".
  • Therefore, he argues, all climate papers are biased into "worse"
  • Therefore, he argues, this "creates horrific effects, especially when the issues are policy-related."

Empty nonsense. No-one but the Judith Curry's of the world would promote Pat Michaels gumpf.

David Gelernter likens science to the Catholic Church of the 16th century 

Can it get more ludicrous?  Yes, indeed.  Judith's eye got caught on an article in CommentaryMagazine by David Gelernter. (Judith left her reading glasses behind and called him David Gelemter, twice).  David is a computer scientist working at Yale.  He was attempting to wax philosophical about the human brain or the mind and how it's different from a computer.  Fair enough - it is.  But the wax melts and runs randomly in weird directions when David writes a lot of stuff and nonsense like this:
That science should face crises in the early 21st century is inevitable. Power corrupts, and science today is the Catholic Church around the start of the 16th century: used to having its own way and dealing with heretics by excommunication, not argument.

Science deals with heretics by excommunication?  I guess Judith is feeling the pain of heresy.
Science needs reasoned argument and constant skepticism and open-mindedness. But our leading universities have dedicated themselves to stamping them out—at least in all political areas. We routinely provide superb technical educations in science, mathematics, and technology to brilliant undergraduates and doctoral students. But if those same students have been taught since kindergarten that you are not permitted to question the doctrine of man-made global warming, or the line that men and women are interchangeable, or the multiculturalist idea that all cultures and nations are equally good (except for Western nations and cultures, which are worse), how will they ever become reasonable, skeptical scientists? They’ve been reared on the idea that questioning official doctrine is wrong, gauche, just unacceptable in polite society. (And if you are president of Harvard, it can get you fired.)

I bet that para got Judith all tingly, especially the bit about "the doctrine of man-made global warming" - which is kinda funny since it shows how gauche is David Gelernter.  Now I don't know anything about the main contention of David Gelernter, but I did come across a blog article that had a different take on the events he is so up in arms about:
Finally, have a look at this piece, in Commentary by Yale computer scientist David Gelernter. It’s a long and angry rant about materialist approaches to consciousness and philosophy of mind. The part that really jumped at me is this, which I’ll quote at length:
(I'll skip over most of the quote - and just post these bits. You can read the full article here:)
the chaos was on display in the ugliness occasioned by the publication of Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos in 2012....Nagel was immediately set on and (symbolically) beaten to death by all the leading punks, bullies, and hangers-on of the philosophical underworld. Attacking Darwin is the sin against the Holy Ghost that pious scientists are taught never to forgive. 

And here is how Jason Rosenhouse sees it:
From reading that description, you could be forgiven for not realizing that the actual sequence of events surrounding Nagel’s book was this:
Nagel published his book.
Various knowledgeable people wrote critical reviews of the book, in which they pointed out the many flaws in Nagel’s arguments.
Whiny right-wingers likened this to a lynch mob that beat Nagel to death (if only symbolically).
Actual lynch mobs were in the habit of torturing and murdering people. Nagel’s critics merely wrote essays suggesting that he wrote a bad book. Those behaviors do not seem comparable to me.
Why do so few academics want anything to do with modern conservatism? Because being a conservative nowadays requires denying reality, and having a sense of victimization so profound that seeing your book criticized is the same as being lynched. That’s why.

Remind you of anyone?  Fake sceptics often complain long and loudly that they are wronged for rejecting science. Judith Curry herself, you may recall, complained that "Hotwhopper's interpretation of pretty much anything I say is IMO ludicrous."  This despite the fact that I unwittingly said pretty much the same as Bart Verheggen about which Judith apparently had no complaint.

Just look at the Lindzen puff piece above for another example.
A need to generate fear, in Lindzen’s telling, is what’s driving the apocalyptic rhetoric heard from many climate scientists and their media allies. “The idea was, to engage the public you needed an event .  .  . not just a Sputnik—a drought, a storm, a sand demon. You know, something you could latch onto. [Climate scientists] carefully arranged a congressional hearing. And they arranged for [James] Hansen [author of Storms of My Grandchildren, and one of the leading global warming “alarmists”] to come and say something vague that would somehow relate a heat wave or a drought to global warming.” (This theme, by the way, is developed to characteristic extremes in the late Michael Crichton’s entertaining 2004 novel State of Fear, in which environmental activists engineer a series of fake “natural” disasters to sow fear over global warming.) 
Lindzen also says that the “consensus”—the oft-heard contention that “virtually all” climate scientists believe in catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming—is overblown, primarily for structural reasons. “When you have an issue that is somewhat bogus, the opposition is always scattered and without resources,” he explains. “But the environmental movement is highly organized. There are hundreds of NGOs. To coordinate these hundreds, they quickly organized the Climate Action Network, the central body on climate. There would be, I think, actual meetings to tell them what the party line is for the year, and so on.” Skeptics, on the other hand, are more scattered across disciplines and continents. As such, they have a much harder time getting their message across.

Lindzen is arguing, I think, it's not logical at all - that "bogus" science is better organised than fake sceptics' "science".  (Like ecologists and biologists are better organised than creationists.  And round-earthers are better organised than flat-earthers. And immunologists are better organised than anti-vaxxers.)  What he probably means is that most fake sceptics don't do science therefore they don't feature much in the scientific literature. He uses words like "bogus" and "apocalyptic" and argues that fake sceptics can't get access to funding.  And he implies that the Climate Action Network leads the science, instead of responding to the science.

To Bob Tisdale - thanks for the magical oceans hypothesis

Next to last, Judith thanks Bob Tisdale for his careful analysis underpinning his magical ocean hypothesis and his rejection of the greenhouse effect.  She doesn't use those words, but since that's what Bob is all about, that's what she is thanking him for.

Climate Science and Eugenics

To cap it off, in the comments Judith links to this article by Ben Pile, in which he compares climate scientists to "eugenicists of mid 20th Century Europe and America", writing: "Ben Pile has a very interesting addition to the scientist-advocacy debate."

Yeah - about as interesting as an article by dilettante "interpreter of interpretations" James Delingpole. (I've written about Ben Pile's fantastic hypotheses before.)

On Merchants of Doubt

Finally and fittingly, the last thing that caught Judith's eye is Merchants of Doubt (as are all the previous people who caught Judith's eye).  Judith is flummoxed by the fact (saying "I kid you not") that Jeff Skoll is making a film about Merchants of Doubt.  Why is she "not kidding you"? She doesn't say, as usual, leaving it up to the imagination of her coterie of fans.  Judith is a latecomer to that news.

The Balance

If you were waiting for Judith Curry to inject some balance to counter the false balance - she disappointed.


  1. Ghastly stuff. You'll need a good scrub down after visiting that septic tank, Sou.

    Imagine a credentialled senior scientist, someone taught to gather and analyse, endorsing McLean or Tisdale, who are genuinely ill-intentioned and aggressively deluded but above all trivially wrong. Curry's never had the wit to correct them.

    McLean has been digging the same hole for himself over and over on the IPCC's aims for years, lying that it's not within their remit to investigate other causes of global warming . He is the dumbest of 'skeptics'. The only person more stupid is he/she at The Age that OKed his piece.

    The 'eugenics/climate science parallel' fantasy thing is old and stupid trolling. [Years ago the delightful rorter Sen. George Brandis filibustered in the Oz senate chamber with the Greens=Nazis loathsomeness]. But it's an 'interesting addition' for Curry? Sheesh...

    What is wrong with Curry? She's become so utterly stupid. Why?

    1. Maintaining her fanbase, simple as that.


    2. Yes, before she started blogging not many people knew who she was or cared about what she thought.
      Those few who knew and cared where mainly her peers: wellinformed and intelligent people.
      Now the situation is the opposite.

    3. I don't think it's simply about maintaining her fanbase. I think she has similar political views as her fanbase and so is motivated to promoting articles that espouse those views.

  2. Ludicrous! Seriously, it's 10^21 joules per year Judith so deal with it. Stop with the emotion and victimization. It just sounds silly.

    Still laughing that she's thankful toward Bob, who can't understand that energy conserves. One night, for masochistic fun, I went through Bob's presentations. What scientist in their right mind could praise that purposely disubfirmung junk? He cherry picks temperature endpoints befire and after an El Nino event to create a step function and says "see, it's all El Nino." Then he surmises that the energy from El Ninos come "naturally" by magic. He also never addresses how temps rise during La Ninas. It's so obviously wrong, you can't use the word science in the same sentence.

    1. Here is Pielke Sr on Tisdale's blog ("I’m Retiring from Full-Time Climate Change Blogging"):

      rpielke says:
      January 3, 2014 at 1:21 pm
      Hi Bob – Best wishes! I hope you do keep active to the extent you can as you have made very major contributions to climate research. Your work really should be funded by the NSF or other such grant awarding organizations. I suggest giving that some thought! :-)

      With Warm Regards

      Roger Sr.

      I really wonder what "very major contributions" Pielke Sr has in mind...

    2. That's funny Lars, but also sad. Also funny are my misspellings - I'll not post via my phone again. Should have been "purposely misinforming junk" - although disubfirmung sounds more like what Bob does. Also, "cherry picks temperature endpoints before and after" not "befire"

  3. Time for the discipline's professional scientists and their organisations to censure Curry for her unprofessional behaviour. Continued silence is simply tacit permission for her anti-science crusade.

    That is all.

    Bernard J.

  4. Hi Sou,

    I think you've misreported what Michaels is actually saying. (It's far dumber than that.)

    His argument goes summat like this...

    Of 115 articles published on climate science, 92 said that the situation was worse than previously thought, and only 9 said there were grounds for optimism.

    That proves, to Michaels, that policymakers should now be ignoring the IPCC, which is a literature review, as he has shown that the literature is biased.

    See how it works; if the journals report that the latest science reports a worse prognosis than previously thought, this proves that the journals are biased, so policymakers can happily vote for tax cuts for the oil and gas industry. QED.

    I guess that in the opposite scenario, that there was a preponderance of articles saying that the prognosis was better, as doubtless there is in the "Orange County Register", then this would lead Michaels to the conclusion that policymakers can happily vote for tax cuts for oil and gas.

    In the case of no bias at all, or in the case of the day of the week having a "d" in it, you guessed it, tax cuts for the Koch Bros is the best policy response.

    Thanks are due to JC for bringing this important insight to wider attention.


    1. idunno, I read it again and I think you're right.

      So if Pat Michaels read the British Medical Journal, which is after all quite "flashy", and found that out of 115 articles on SARS, 83 were discussing its lethal effects ("worse"), 23 were "neutral" (eg discussing the structure of the virus) and 9 were "better" (eg showing it's not readily transmitted) then that would show publication bias and have some "pretty nasty consequences" and "horrific effects" when it came to public policy.

  5. Prof. Curry's antics bore me, but Sou raises an interesting question regarding sexism and climate contrarians. I also noticed this correlation, most recently in entry #73(c) in my contrarian index. I thought economart was rude to me, before I saw how much worse he treated Cara Hernandez. Who ordered the misogyny?

    Also, your recent tussle with "Karen" reminds me of entry #7, "Jane Q. Public" who is the most prolific contrarian I've encountered. Here's another of Jane's gems:

    "... men should take some responsibility for birth control (condoms or whatever), but to trick somebody in that manner and then try to hold them responsible is one of the most despicable acts I can imagine. In general I would call it worse than rape because, again in general, it will have longer and more profound, tangible effect. ..." [Jane Q. Public, 2012-08-20]

    Jane seems to claim that child support payments are more profound and last longer than psychological scars, which instantly vanish after 18 years (right?). My personal reaction involved the world's smallest violin, but I'm curious to see what women think about these two questions:

    1. Was Jane's statement misogynist?
    2. Do you think Jane is a woman in real life?

  6. JC's (Curry not Christ) piece is an example of Morton's Demon which demon stands at the trapdoor to her senses and lets in those 'things that catch her eye' that agree with her beliefs while deflecting those that do not. Not a good demon to have if you're a scientist.

  7. George: by any chance the same G.M who commented over at WUWT on Salby?
    'For more inspiration, Josh, check out Murray’s rating on Rate My Professor'

  8. Laying aside any pretences, see Curry's latest.

    The comments correspondence with miker613 from 9.23, 7 Jan even has a longtime devotee like climatereason questioning the honesty of her brokerage.


    1. Thanks, idunno. Judith Curry's decline is accelerating faster than seas are rising - and she's no longer trying to hide it. She's going out in a blaze of ingloriousness. Maybe she's looking for a job with the GWPF or the Heartland Institute.

      That one's a weekend task and it could be worth the effort. On a quick read it's going to be easy to pull it to bits, but will take some time.


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