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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Climate disinformer Judith Curry, "pragmatic ethicist" despicably perpetuates a lie....

Sou | 8:19 AM Go to the first of 32 comments. Add a comment


Update: After this article which I tweeted to @curryja at the time, comments from Kevin O'Neill and Izen and two days after writing it, Judith has finally commented that she has changed her article (compare original to revised). She now refers to the headline but does not clarify what Professor Torcello actually wrote or the context or that she grossly misrepresented him and his views. She left the word "outrageous" to refer to Lawrence Torcello's "thinking about climate ethics", suggesting she views the organised funding of misinformation campaigns as more than perfectly okay. Does it fit with her "pragmatic ethics"?

Curry as amended... Torcello famously wrote an essay entitled Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent? More traditional (less outrageous) thinking about climate ethics ...
Curry's original and very wrong portrayal... Torcello famously wrote that climate scientists who fail to communicate the correct message about “global warming” should face trial for “criminal negligence”.  More traditional (less outrageous) thinking about climate ethics

What Lawrence Torcello wrote (my bold italics):
When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent
Of interest may be the comments like this and this and these, especially in light of the fact that Lawrence Torcello's article attracted so much venom on denier blogs and upwards of 700 hate emails and telephone calls.

Following the disinformation on denier blogs earlier this year, Professor Torcello wrote a strongly worded very clear statement  (h/t MikeH in the comments below).

(Note also that in this article I have not discussed the suspect ethics and absurdly impractical suggestions that Judith was promoting to try to justify her push to not reduce CO2 emissions and not mitigate climate change, which could be worth an article in its own right.)

Sou 12:27 pm AEST 27 July 2014 - amended 12:58 pm to compare changed wording and add more for clarification.



I don't go there too often - it's too awful. However today I visited Judith Curry's blog and I found her perpetuating an old lie (archived here). Since, as a bully herself she gets so upset about people "bullying" (ie calling her out on her disinformation and worse), you'd have thought she'd be more cautious.


No, I won't yawn, Judith, I'm outraged


What was her lie? She was repeating the nonsense about the Laurence Torcello article in The Conversation back in March this year. You know, the one that prompted all the hate mail from deniers, some of whom could well have been part of an "organised campaign funding misinformation".

Judith has to know it's made up baloney. She even linked to the article itself.  So this is just one more piece of evidence to add to her long list of sins.  I can totally believe that Judith would "yawn" at ethics. This is what Judith wrote [now inserted full paragraph for comparison with the update above Sou 12:27 pm AEST 27 July 2014 ]:
My recent post Why scientists should talk to philosophers elicited a comment on twitter (that I can’t find) that recommended Lawrence Torcello as a philosopher that I should be paying attention to.  In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Torcello famously wrote that climate scientists who fail to communicate the correct message about “global warming” should face trial for “criminal negligence”.  More traditional (less outrageous) thinking about climate ethics is typified by this Nature essay by Stephen Gardiner.My response to most writings on climate ethics that I’ve encountered has ranged from outrage to a yawn..

No, that's not what Lawrence Torcello "famously wrote". He said nothing of the kind. He didn't say that climate scientists should face trial.  Perhaps the philosophers Judith talks to encourage her to be immoral and unethical (Judith's "pragmatic ethics"), although she needs no encouragement.

Compare what Judith wrote with what Lawrence Torcello actually wrote:
The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

No mention of climate scientists except to say that the majority agree on global warming. Professor Torcello was talking about "an organised campaign funding misinformation", not climate scientists.

What Lawrence Torcello did say was that he didn't believe poor scientific communication should be criminalised:
I don’t believe poor scientific communication should be criminalised because doing so will likely discourage scientists from engaging with the public at all.

Well, Judith Curry is one of those rare scientists who should most definitely not be engaging with the public. She's not to be trusted.

(I've just had a thought. Maybe Judith, climate scientist, is admitting to being part of "an organised campaign funding misinformation". That could let her off the hook, couldn't it? Maybe - at a Curry-style stretch. Especially with her "pragmatic" ethics. Only to hang her on another hook, of course.)


Justice for deliberate disinformers who are in positions of influence


Let's hope that one day there will be justice for people like Judith Curry. People like Judith Curry, who used to be a Departmental Chair at Georgia Tech professorial chair at a minor university, should be held to higher standards than plebs like the normal denier crowd at WUWT.

[Georgia Tech is a very worthy institution and is not a minor university by any means. I apologise without reservation for the unintended slight to all the current top notch staff, students and alumni. The intended slight was aimed at the single individual who has diminished its reputation somewhat. There are duds in the best universities. Sou 1:16 pm  AEST 26 July 2014]

You know what was the razor blade in the soap? Judith wrote her lie under a headline:

Towards a pragmatic ethics of climate change 


Is it her pragmatic ethics that allows Judith to promote disinformation? Does it allow her to disregard any twinge of conscience or does she have no conscience?

I'd say if the former, she hides it very well, as evidenced by her testimonies to the US Government.

32 comments :

  1. Ok, Sou, what is the distinction? Would not Laurence advocate scientists be prosecuted if they were part of the organised campaign funding misinformation?

    ReplyDelete
  2. We crossed comments, John. I just added that very thought to the article. Judith Curry may well be admitting that she is "part of an organised campaign funding misinformation". It would let her off the "lie" hook and hang her on another hook.

    Which is worse?

    BTW - Lawrence Torcello didn't use the words "prosecuted" or "face trial". As you'll have read, his words were "regarded as criminally negligent".

    Words matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd better add this, because it's clear that John is not very skilled at logic.

      Lawrence Torcello specifically advocates against criminalising poor science communication, as you'll have seen in my article and in his article in The Conversation.

      As an illustration only, and only in relation to Lawrence Torcello's article, if Judith Curry were to fall into the category of being criminally negligent, it would have been only on the grounds that she was running an organised campaign to fund misinformation. The fact that she happens to be a scientist would be irrelevant.

      Delete
    2. If one was "criminally" negligent, would they not be "prosecuted" or "face trial."

      Sou, do you know what "criminally" means?

      Delete
    3. They might or might not be prosecuted or face trial. People who are "regarded as criminally negligent" are not always prosecuted and do not always face trial.

      But it's more than that, isn't it, John.There is obviously something that you are dying to spit out. Have courage and say it. The worst that can happen is I'll delete your comment.

      Delete
    4. Based on society's response to the tobacco industry, it is far more likely that the funders of climate science denial will eventually be sued for large amounts of money.

      In fact I am certain that it is only a matter of time. It only takes one judgement and the floodgates will open.

      http://www.businessinsider.com.au/why-juries-are-giving-billions-of-dollars-to-individuals-2014-7

      Delete
    5. It could happen, Mike. But weren't most cases against tobacco companies themselves, not all the various third parties (many of whom we know acted on their behalf)?

      There is a sort of parallel in fossil fuel companies but I can't see that happening unless it can be demonstrated that they funded the various disinformation campaigns. Which isn't out of the bounds of possibility either, but would take some solid forensic accounting.

      Delete
  3. The basic problem for the fossil fuel industries is about 80% of their very past valuable assets need to be left in the ground to stave off very damaging climate change. This is the crux of the matter. It makes their future business untenable and they know it. Bert

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  4. If its any comfort to Ms Curry, I do believe that there will be a 'Nuremberg Trials' for climate change deniers one day. It will, of course, be far too late: probably by then we will be committed to whatever maximum temperature rise can be acheived by burning carbon. Most of the major villains will be long dead. It will be held in Beijing.

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  5. As I read your article, I thought, "Oh, Curry subconsciously was threatened by the text and thus represented it incorrectly." This is slightly different than your thought, which it makes it sound like she made a conscious admission. Consciously or subconsciously, her brain admits to being unscrupulous.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I posted the following at Climate Etc ... let's see if it passes moderation.


    Kevin O'Neill | July 26, 2014 at 3:09 am
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    JC says: “…Torcello famously wrote that climate scientists who fail to communicate the correct message about “global warming” should face trial for “criminal negligence””

    There were 311 comments listed when I read this. The actual article is linked to and *NOT* one person noticed that JC has completely misquoted Professor Torcello! Not one? Does anyone know how to read?

    Here’s what Professor Torcello wrote: “When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.’

    It isn’t climate scientists that he believes ought to be considered criminally negligent, but “an organised campaign funding misinformation.”

    One cannot actually read the article and misunderstand this point. It is, after all, the main point of the article. JC really ought to apologize for her complete mischaracterization of Professor Torcello’s words. And the commenters here ought to be ashamed for not reading the original and thinking for themselves instead of simply believing whatever pablum they’re being spoon-fed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good one Kevin.

      See also my comment below describing why I think Judith's fabrication was doubly outrageous.

      I tweeted her, so if she reads her tweets, she knows I've written this article. AFAIK Judith rarely corrects anything on her blog.

      She talked only the other day about how fake sceptics correct each other's mistakes and fix them. She was wrong about that, too. She didn't even correct the major mistakes in her own article where she wrote that.

      http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/06/noaa-and-temperature-data-it-must-be.html#selfcorrect

      Delete
    2. She seems to think it's important to communicate, but she is just incredibly lazy,and is oblivious to how obvious that is. Why would she go to the trouble of setting up a blog site and interacting on it, if she cannot be ar**d fact checking her stuff? Is the attention of a small cast of anonymous cranks really worth the trashing one's professional reputation?

      Delete
  7. Have posted this at JCs, it is awaiting moderation (grin)
    izen

    I would welcome some clarification on what principles of pragmatic ethics are invoked to justify the miss-quoting or radical reinterpretation of a statement.
    for instance JC in the thread essay writes-

    Torcello famously wrote that climate scientists who fail to communicate the correct message about “global warming” should face trial for “criminal negligence”.

    there are quote marks around “global warming” and “criminal negligence” but the second quote is wrong, here is the actual sentence Torcello wrote

    “With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.”

    The words used by Torcello are criminally negligent NOT criminal negligence, the quote marks do not indicate an accurate quote in this case.
    Note that there is nothing in this original suggesting that climate scientists who fail to communicate the correct message should face trial, In fact it is hard to see how any ethical reading can get from one to the other.
    The other two word quote is the same as quoted by JC but the context is rather different.-

    “When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on.”

    I find it hard to reconcile this alteration of the meaning of statement by one person with that claimed for it by another, with any ethical system, pragmatic or otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The really bad part of this is that the article was misrepresented first time around, with people substituting "denier" for "an organised campaign" and at WUWT they urged everyone to write to the University - a coordinated hate mail attack. There were something like 700 missives in only a few days.

      Judith is perpetuating that, and it has to be knowingly. She linked to the article itself. So that is what makes it doubly outrageous.

      The only difference is she substituted "climate scientist". Perhaps she is shy about her denialist proclivities and prefers to think of herself in the role of her university job, rather than her disinformation blog or her misleading testimony to government.

      As of this morning's archive, I didn't see anyone in the comments pick her up on it. So good for you Izen. (I might have missed one as I only skimmed the comments.)

      Delete
    2. Is she talking about Torcello or Delingpole?

      http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/04/04/climate-science-denier-james-delingpole-calls-alarmists-face-court-death-penalty-powers

      Delete
  8. I cannot find any comments yet on Climate Etc poitnting out the error about Torcello.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Misquoting is the dissenters forte.
    DDT (see http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ddt-chronicles-at-millard-fillmores-bathtub/)

    The scotse plot of 600Myears temp matched with a geocarb3 model. Total belief by dissenters but show them a plot of 1000 yearse and the blinkers go on. (http://climateandstuff.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/plot-to-remember.html)

    And there is this one from the Club of Rome (leave out the bold and you have a damning quote:
    http://www.archive.org/download/TheFirstGlobalRevolution/TheFirstGlobalRevolution.pdf
    The common enemy of humanity is Man
    In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill.
    [[[[In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes.]]]]
    All these dangers are caused by human intervention In natural processes. and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As the great philosopher Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

      Delete
    2. No, that is an easy out. If the enemy is everyone, it's no one. There ARE folks knowingly funding disinformation on this issue and they should be held to account.

      Delete
  10. Any response from JC re: the questions 'awaiting moderation'?

    (I'd rather not add to her traffic.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. She finally acknowledges her error here:

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/07/24/towards-a-pragmatic-ethics-of-climate-change/#comment-611732

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I’ve changed the disputed sentence to:

      Torcello famously wrote an essay entitled Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?"

      A clever bit of sidestepping, wrapped in a grammatical abortion.

      Delete
    2. Pathetic. I had zero respect after she misrepresented the science in testimony to the US govt. It must be negative at this point, if it's possible.

      Delete
    3. I've updated the article to comment on her two-day-late change. The way she has handled it only adds to speculation about Judith's lack of ethics.

      Pathetic is good. I can think of better words to describe it - not suitable for HotWhopper.

      Delete
    4. AFAIK, the titles of articles at The Conversation** are usually written by the editors.

      Here is Torcello's article reprinted at qz.com with a more accurate title - "It should be criminal to fund climate change denial"

      And here is a statement from Laurence Torcello made last year around the time the climate cranks started misrepresenting his article.
      http://lawrencetorcello.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/83/
      "The current form of misrepresentation my work is receiving will be familiar to many who write and research on the topic of climate change. To be clear: I do not believe that anyone who doubts the scientific consensus that exists on climate change should be put in prison. I do not believe that scientists who challenge prevailing views in the course of their scientific research should be put in prison. I do not believe that people who disagree with me should be put in prison. Such views are ridiculous and abhorrent. I value and welcome informed discussion and disagreement. I encourage you to carefully read my real article, which addresses organized efforts to cloud public perception of science on issues that are relevant to public safety."

      If Curry had spoken to Torcello as was advised in the original tweet (& in line with her post) or at the very least made an effort to read past the title given to his article, she may not have made such a complete fool of herself.

      ** Skiphil, one of the numpties commenting at Curry's blog refers to "his obscure little article in that biased and obscure rag “The Conversation”". According to the TC web site, "The Conversation has a monthly audience of 1.6 million users, and reach of 6.2 million through Creative Commons republication." and in reference to the involvement of the academic community "Write an article and join a growing community of more than 13,000 academics and researchers from 845 institutions."

      Delete
    5. Thanks very much for this, Mike. I'll add a link up top.

      Delete
  12. She seems to specialise in moonwalking- giving an appearance of moving in one direction while moving in another.

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  13. I was going to alert Prof Torcello to Judith's original and revised text, but see that he's already retweeted Sou's tweet :)

    Good work Sou.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I found myself wholly agreeing (for once) with all of this post until I read Prof. Torcello's essay.

    As the foundation of his essay, Torcello uses the story of seven Italian scientists who did not publicly refute a government official concerning the possibility of an earthquake.

    To cement the analogy drawn between criminally negligent "climate deniers" and the Italian scientists, the last para of his essay hyperlinks a Guardian article titled ""Italian scientists on trial for failing to predict earthquake".

    The hyperlink is in the phrase: "... those who purposefully strive to make sure “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” is given to the public?".

    (A side note -- the linking of this phrase seems to contradict Torcello's earlier statements which characterize the Italian scientists as poor communicators vs.criminally negligent:

    Crucially, the scientists, when consulted about ongoing tremors in the region, did not conclude that a devastating earthquake was impossible in L’Aquila. But, when the Defence Minister held a press conference saying there was no danger, they made no attempt to correct him. I don’t believe poor scientific communication should be criminalised because doing so will likely discourage scientists from engaging with the public at all. )


    To make your point, you quoted one of Torcello's phrases and emphasized this bit "an organised campaign funding misinformation".

    I get that.

    A careful reading of Torcello's essay tells you he believes unfunded individual "climate deniers" and unfunded communities of "climate deniers" are not subject to charges of criminal and moral negligence.

    You implicitly make the same point.

    But, I understand how some people concluded Torcello believes criminal and moral negligence should apply to all "climate deniers" and not just those funded as part of a "sustained campaign".

    ReplyDelete
  15. "much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on"

    Which facts?

    ReplyDelete
  16. "... are not subject to charges of criminal and moral negligence"

    Where?

    ReplyDelete

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