Scroll To Top

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

From Shakespeare conspiracies to climate conspiracies

Sou | 7:29 PM Go to the first of 33 comments. Add a comment

Yesterday I came across an article at WUWT (archived here), which Anthony Watts described as coming from an "educated listener". It was nothing but a very, very long denier screed in the form of a letter to Anthony Brandon, WYPR station manager. WYPR is a radio station in Baltimore, and associated with NPR (National Public Radio, USA). Dr. Roger Stritmatter signed himself as "Professor of Humanities Coppin State University".

I wondered why a professor of humanities thought he knew more about climate than all the specialist researchers who've spent their working lives studying the subject. What made him think he knew so much that had escaped the experts?

Another denier who gets his pseudo-science from climate conspiracy blogs


As it turned out, Roger relied on denier blogs like WUWT and Jo "Force X and the Notch" Nova. So he knew nothing about climate but he did pick up a few conspiracy theories in his travels. He's also an "ice age comether", writing:
...the real risk to the future we want for our children and grandchildren is not warming, but serious, widespread, and potentially disruptive cooling.
Yep, that's what the humanities professor wrote after the hottest decade on record, and the hottest year on record, which is about to be beaten by another hottest year on record, and quite probably yet another hottest year on record in 2016.


Data source: GISS NASA

Roger foolishly thinks there's been something he calls "the pause", which he maintains is likely to be a peak, writing:
This is called by some “the pause.”  Others, more plausibly in my estimation, call it the peak.
If anyone knows Dr. Stritmatter, be kind enough to recommend a good optometrist.


Now Roger went through many of the denier memes, like medieval warming and "scientists don't know nuffin'", but seemed to favour "it's the sun" over all the others. He went on and on about Maunder and Dalton and other solar minima and thinks if we have another one it will spell disaster of the cold kind. He's wrong.

He also wrote what he doesn't know about CO2 (but thinks he does). In doing so, he has shown that he isn't any good at arithmetic. For example, he thinks that oceans are outgassing CO2 on balance, saying it's like warm Coca Cola. If he added up all the CO2 we've been emitting, or read about ocean acidification, he'd know that even though the oceans are getting hotter, there is so much extra CO2 in the air that the oceans are still absorbing it. He hasn't kept up with paleoclimatology either. The lags aren't as laggy as he thinks. On the other hand, being a humanities professor he probably wouldn't claim to be numerate, even though he's not afraid to claim some sort of scientific expertise despite having none at all. (Reading his letter, his literary skills could also do with a bit of polish.)

His logic is not the best either. He seems to think that because in the past there were times when something else caused warming, that it can't be warming from increasing greenhouse gases now. Logical fallacies are the Telltale Technique No. 2 of climate science denial.

Oh, and by the way, he objects to his denial of science being termed "denial". So he's a euphemism preferrer, if you will.


The Shakespeare conspiracy


I wondered about this good doctor of humanities so I went and found something about him. It turns out he's made a career of conspiratorial thinking. He specialises in seeking out the "real" author of Shakespeare's works. He's what is known as an Oxfordian. Now as I understand it, most serious scholars of Shakespeare view debates about Shakespeare authorship as fringe distractions at best, and a waste of time. People who spend their lives arguing that the plays were really penned by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (as this chap seems to think), or Sir Francis Bacon, or Christopher Marlowe, or William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, or even Queen Elizabeth or some other person, are viewed as somewhat eccentric, mistaken, possibly even deluded or weirdly obsessed.

Oxford, Bacon, Derby, and Marlowe (clockwise from top left, Shakespeare centre) have each been proposed as the true author. Source: Wikipedia



I thought it quite fitting that a person who embraces one type of arguably conspiratorial thinking would be open to other conspiracy theories, like the "climate hoax" conspiracy. Maybe Professor Lewandowsky could add a question about the Shakespeare conspiracy in his next version of Recurrent Fury.

Now Roger might take exception to me, who lays no claim to any expertise in English literature or authorship of same, expressing an opinion on the subject of Shakespeare. Yet I ask you. Look at the difference. All I've done is presented what the experts say. Roger, on the other hand, who cannot lay claim to any expertise in climate science, expresses his opinion on the subject, and disputes what the experts say. He doesn't call on experts to support his opinion. He calls on fake experts. Not just conspiracy theory blogs like WUWT and Jo Nova's blog, he cites a "pseudonymous commentator Lone Pine, at topicx.com" who wrote about how we're heading for an ice age. Roger even got his pseudonym (and tree species) wrong! Calling on fake experts is Telltale Technique Number 1 of climate science denial. Let's say getting the pseudonym of a fake expert wrong is Telltale Technique No. 6.


A pro and con


In his favour, Roger is regarded very highly by his students. He gets an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5, and is said to be an "awesome English teacher". Which just goes to show something or the other, but I'm not sure what :)

Not in his favour, Roger has claimed that he wrote his letter "as a lifelong environmentalist and outdoorsman with a strong environmental ethic." Anyone who has a strong "environmental ethic" would not be denying science, particularly when in doing so they are helping to speed up the sixth great extinction, and making the world a more dangerous place for all forms of life. They'd not be turning to denier blogs seeking some sort of conscience salve, they'd be reading what scientists are finding.


From the WUWT comments


Johan was hoping to get an "A" for English from the English professor, but I doubt he will. He was also delighted to read a "humanities-approach" to pseudo-science:
September 21, 2015 at 1:27 am
Dear Professor Stritmatter,
What a delightful essay! Your humanities-approach is so compelling, with your sword of the word slashing all the mumbo-jumbo of contemporary climate dogma to pieces without a bad word towards anyone, just cold FACTS, The very, very serious message is still there: the danger of cooling. I presume you are acquainted with the research of Prof. Habibullah Abdussamatov at Pulkova Observatory in St. Petersburg? He has warned of imminent cooling alredy for quite some time.

 Jit consoles him or herself with the thought that all 7.3 billion people in the world are mad, except for denier conspiracy nutters who gravitate to WUWT:
September 21, 2015 at 1:27 am
Thanks Roger… it is a matter of great regret that the “phantom menace” of carbon dioxide is crowding out the real environmental problems that a small portion of climate money would go a long way to solving.
I am not entirely sure that this obsession with CO2 can be entirely objective even for those who enthusiastically endorse it. I suspect something else at work in the deep psychology of the alarmists. Not that I have any time for those who don’t even admit that CO2 is a greenhouse gas; but it seems an odd thing to have so overtaken generally sane minds when real environmental problems are glossed over. Take WWF; why are they obsessing about a small effect by CO2 when the threats to wildlife are hunting, introduced species, deforestation… with CO2 far, far down a long, long list? Odd.

ntesdorf thinks Roger's letter is beautiful and shows what nonsense is Global Warming with a capital G and a capital W:
September 21, 2015 at 1:29 am
What a beautiful refutation by Professor Roger Stritmatter of NPR’s latest piece of Global Warming nonsense this is. It is well-argued, erudite and scientifically founded. If NPR received more of this sort of response to their lazy alarmism, they would be forced to think and re-assess their allegiance to this Climate Alarmist hysterics. 

markstoval's "thought" is one long, meandering, conspiratorial rave. I've highlighted some key words:
September 21, 2015 at 1:57 am
I enjoyed the open letter and I thank Roger Stritmatter for taking the time to write it and then sending it to this site so that it could be published.
That said, it is a total waste of time and energy to attempt to change the minds of those who lead the government propaganda institution called NPR or any of its affiliate stations. The mindless left-wing (in the modern sense) socialism of NPR is a perfect fit for the drive to control all of humanity via CO2 scaremongering.
I knew the whole CO2 think was a joke (a dark and dangerous joke) when it first cropped up in the ’80s of last century. I knew that as the whole idea requires violation of far too many laws of thermodynamics. But today one only has to look at all the data tampering to see that there is no science being practiced in the field. I would call it Global Warming Astrology except that Astrology at least does not try to fudge the data on where the stars are when you are born. (as far as I know)
So, good try Doc and thanks for the effort. Perhaps someone at the local station will think twice if they are even willing to read your letter. 

The mods missed the comment from Svante Callendar, or maybe they just scraped in the quota (there's a general policy that only two "warmists" are allowed on the board at the one time at WUWT)
September 21, 2015 at 2:49 am
A Gish Gallop with references to Denialist websites!.
Above all, we need a discussion that also contemplates the distinct possibility, now supported as likely by an actively growing number of informed scientific observers, that the real risk to the future we want for our children and grandchildren is not warming, but serious, widespread, and potentially disruptive cooling.
A claim with no evidence. Global Cooling – any decade now…

Gentle Tramp picks a nit, gently:
September 21, 2015 at 3:28 am
Dear Dr. Stritmatter
I know, it’s not really important here and any educated reader will understand what you mean, but nevertheless, the correct chemical formula for carbon dioxide is “CO2”, not “Co2” (“2” should be subscript of course). This is not just a question of pettiness but of scientific precision because “Co2” would actually mean two cobalt atoms in a molecule instead of one carbon and two oxygen atoms.
Apart from that detail, thanks very much for your letter, though I’m afraid, the ideological left leaning people from NPR are far too much prejudiced about this topic and therefore psychologically not really able to enlighten their minds accordingly. 

hunter indulges in some pro-active conspiracy ideation and fears for Roger's job security:
September 21, 2015 at 3:46 am
Dr. Stritmatter,
While your letter is excellent, reasoned, thoughtful and thorough, the chances of its recipient reading it through, understanding it, and being convinced to report the news any differently at all is nil.
If anything you may find yourself now facing sudden pressure from your superiors about your job and how maybe you don’t need it anymore. 

There were a few people, like lonetown, who decided that Roger's politics were sufficiently to the left to render his entire letter worthless at WUWT. Only the right wing are right. Declared (so-called) progressives are wrong by default. A good right winger will reject all notions from progressives, on the grounds of ideology - even the notions they agree with - or something like that (weird).
September 21, 2015 at 3:52 am
The prog checklist at the begininng was interesting:
not an apologist for that dirty, violent, and hopefully moribund industry.” check
will not be voting for St. Fiorini, Dr. Carson, or the man with the expensive toupe and the big ugly mouth” check.
It is a kind of claim of authority. It makes the next 2700 words kind of ho-hum, as he is a rather pedestrian thinker, rather full of himself.
The whole climate field is like mean girls.
There were others who commented on Roger's declaration of progressive ideology. tim maguire wrote:
September 21, 2015 at 4:56 am
It’s nice that he tried, but it is far too long. I can’t imagine anyone reading it beginning to end. And what is it with liberals that makes them so intent on establishing their liberal bona fides before getting to the point? Why don’t these people who occasionally work up the courage to venture off the reservation get a creepy feeling when they realize how afraid they are that they won’t be let back on when they’re done?

John Endicott thinks it signifies intolerance of the bleeding heart pluralistic liberals:
September 21, 2015 at 5:53 am
It’s rather telling of the intolerance of the left that they feel they need to tout their leftist bonified in order to have any hope of getting their fellow leftist to listen to them

Marcus punctuates his dire warnings with lots of exclamation points.
September 21, 2015 at 5:28 am
Very well put Dr. Stritmatter !!! So sorry about your upcoming job loss, as the Eco-Terrorists on the left will surely attack you for thinking rationally !! Perhaps you should invest in a hard hat , as it is going to rough and dirty for you very soon !!!! As to my opinion on this matter, when the climate STOPS changing , then we should be worried !!!!

References and further reading


The 5 telltale techniques of climate change denial - article by John Cook on CNN (2015)

On Shakespeare


From the HotWhopper archives

33 comments :

  1. Naturally, the most compelling evidence against Oxford writing the Shakespearian works is his death in 1604, whereas approximately twelve plays were written after that date. Perhaps a new definition of "ghost writer" is required?

    Of course, the mental gymnastics required to magic away that minor detail is easy for somebody practiced in climate change denial. Although I suppose he isn't a denialist if he thinks an ice age is rapidly approaching? That's _technically_ a change of climate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Silly MWS...He, of course, wrote them all BEFORE he died and his family released them over a period of years to maximize profits. Any child's mind would see that!

      Delete
    2. jgnfld, of course Oxford wrote them before he died. And that is what some Oxfordians assert. On no evidence.

      The Shakespeare authorship question boils down to an argument from ignorance - could a boy who went to a provincial grammar school really write such brilliant poetry? Bit snobbish really.

      And to come up with anything like a coherent argument, the cherry picking on the authorship issue is on a Monckton scale.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  2. "He has warned of imminent cooling alredy for quite some time."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah - the patience of ice age comethers.

      I went to look and I found a prediction made three years ago, that the ice age was going to start in 2014 (the hottest year on record so far).

      https://archive.is/Rjm6t

      Same year as Jo Nova and her partner (whose name I've forgotten and can't be bothered looking up) predicted would herald in the Force X cooling.

      The ice age predictions aren't working too well for them are they. A record hot year in 2014, and another almost certainly this year, and maybe another next year in 2016, if past El Nino years are anything to go by. (And deniers complain that climate models aren't good enough, despite observations are *within* the model projections.)

      Delete
    2. 2014, wasn't that last year. I am sure he has a newer prediction for imminent danger in a few years.

      But nothing will shake their public beliefs, because they never believed it in the first place. It is just a pledge of allegiance.

      Delete
  3. " the correct chemical formula for carbon dioxide is “CO2”, not “Co2” (“2” should be subscript of course). This is not just a question of pettiness but of scientific precision because “Co2” would actually mean two cobalt atoms in a molecule instead of one carbon and two oxygen atoms."

    I would not call that nit picking. Claiming that all experts in a field are wrong, while you yourself do not even have the minimal knowledge to be able to mimic some expertise. That is ludicrous.

    When I would write that everything the historians know about the plays of Will Shakespair is wrong, the good professor would not continue reading. It is really terrible what denial or ideology does to the human mind or how little some people care about their intellectual reputation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct of course, Victor. I was thinking nit-picking in the context of WUWT only, which has a very high tolerance for error. There was so much wrong in Roger's article that calling carbon dioxide cobalt could be regarded as a minor mistake, by comparison :(

      No - that's not right, is it. WUWT doesn't just have a high tolerance for error, it favours errors. It has a preference for nonsense (and non-science), and has an almost total intolerance of anything science.

      Delete
    2. The claim that ocean acidification is nonsense because seawater 'Ph' is greater than 7 is a comparable crank indicator.

      Delete
    3. You will find a recent article on WUWT that argues just that (acidification being the wrong word, because pH > 7).

      Interestingly, I noticed some people pushing a little bit back on the rhetoric, for example pointing out that acidosis involves blood pH falling below 7.35, with no one complaining about the term "acidification" in that respect.

      Of course, the person who wrote the guest blog did not see the irony in claiming that "acidification" was only used to make the process sound scary, thereby failing to see that "neutralization" would make the process sound desirable.

      Delete
    4. Marco, I agree. It doesn't matter if the cranks think acidification is the wrong word. It doesn't matter what word you do use. The observed decrease in ocean pH is what matters. Truly the denialati are trying to show Alice In Wonderland is a documentary.

      Delete
    5. If 'acidification' is too controversial a term, can we at least agree that we continue to debase the ocean?

      Delete
    6. When I see someone claim the ocean isn't acidifying, I ask them what they think dissolution is.

      Unfortunately I feel the concept of Saturation States is something lost on the general public.

      Delete
  4. Crank magnetism!

    As an academic, I've known quite a few humanities professors. The ones I've known have pretty much all been very smart people, and some also know quite a bit about science. I've never met a Shakespeare crackpot among them.

    I imagine that the folks down the hall from this guy are rolling their eyes just as much as we are.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Remarkable coincidence: Today we had a critical comment published which involves Shakespeare and a climate conspiracy theory.

    Jens Morten Hansen had a hard time getting an unconvincing study published and believes he is the victim of "scientific censorship in the name of climate". His study is a classic case of over fitting and post hoc rationalisation of correlations. We demonstrate that he could fit anything with his lunar model by example. One of our examples use the frequency of the word "hamlet" in the literature (from Google ngrams).

    http://www.glaciology.net/Home/Miscellaneous-Debris/anunconvincingcaseofcyclefitting

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The JCR again...but equally bad that some of the Danish media lapped it up so easily and did not get a second opinion. Even videnskab.dk has published it now (2 days ago).

      Delete
    2. I was amazed that the JCR editor mailed JMH afterwards with a thank you note (according to the story where he claims censorship).

      videnskab.dk has put our criticism on their front page. archived copy
      And wrote a quite nice piece on it as well: link.

      Delete
    3. What a wonderful article, AG. Loved the elephant - and the charts of the moon and Hamlet (and Frankenstein et al).

      Delete
    4. Wonderful example.

      I'm surprised by the number of mathturbation papers I see published. Would editors be as easily suckered in by such poor work if, after publishing something like Hansen's paper, they received 10 different submissions showing "We apply Hansen's method (published in this journal) to demonstrate that the phases of the Moon explain [mentions of Hamlet, Frankenstein, number of letters in UK #1 chart hits, output from this random number generator applied to, ... ]"?

      The sort of review that lets that through should be a laughing stock. It's fair enough that reviewers can't catch everything, no reviewer or editor is perfect. But that flaws of parameter fiddling and curve fitting should be so widely known among any scientist that it should never make it through review.

      Delete
    5. "I was amazed that the JCR editor mailed JMH afterwards with a thank you note (according to the story where he claims censorship)."

      I always get a thank-you note from a number of journals when the paper is published. It is system-generated. I wonder whether Hansen mistook that note for a personal thank you.

      Delete
    6. "scientific censorship in the name of climate"

      This is a common claim in skeptic circles. Curry has said the same. But has anyone ever done or seen any kind of study examining the percent of skeptic papers that get accepted, compared to the percent of mainstream climate science papers? It isn't easy to get any paper published and many get turned down the first time anyway for all sorts of reasons.

      A similar study could look at grant applications.

      It's easy to throw out the accusation that publishers and grant-issuers are prejudiced against skeptic studies, but is that actually true? Is there any data at all aside from anecdotal?

      Delete
    7. @marco perhaps... Here's a translated quote from the censorship piece :

      When it became clear that there was no chance to publish in journals under the Nature publishing house, the three authors decided to send the article to the Journal of Coastal Research. And here there were altogether different positive reactions from the reviewers - to such an extent that the journal's managing editor Charles Finkl acknowledged with a thank you letter, which among other things stated:

      "I think these papers will be very well received by the research community, at least by those who appreciate cyclicity in Nature. Bravo for a job well done!"


      A somewhat mangled Google translate of JMH Censorship claim

      Delete
    8. @marco perhaps... Here's a translated quote from the censorship piece :

      When it became clear that there was no chance to publish in journals under the Nature publishing house, the three authors decided to send the article to the Journal of Coastal Research. And here there were altogether different positive reactions from the reviewers - to such an extent that the journal's managing editor Charles Finkl acknowledged with a thank you letter, which among other things stated:

      "I think these papers will be very well received by the research community, at least by those who appreciate cyclicity in Nature. Bravo for a job well done!"


      A somewhat mangled Google translate of JMH Censorship claim

      Delete
    9. Considering the quote, it indeed is a personal thank-you note. But one that makes Finkl look like a cyclomaniac...

      Interestingly, if the Australian describes Finkl's position correctly, he is one of those who "does not believe global warming and sea-level rises are caused by human activity"
      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/studying-the-climate-then-get-out-of-the-lab/story-fn59niix-1226110506742

      Hilariously, Finkl apparently also said "“I am not in favour of models for many reasons. They get better over time, and we need to use them, but with a grain of salt. We should instead use our brains and hard or real data to make interpretations.”
      One would think that all that curve fitting and cyclicity involves models...

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think Anthony is being a bit mean here. He could so easily lend the Prof his time machine (the one he uses to prove that predictions of the future are wrong) and go back in time to have a chat with the Bard. Perhaps we should keep checking our editions of Shakespeare and see if Prospero starts making references to global cooling in an altered reality.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "I wondered why a professor of humanities thought he knew more about climate than all the specialist researchers who've spent their working lives studying the subject. What made him think he knew so much that had escaped the experts?"

    was basically answered by Delingpole:

    "I note that warmists are often banging on about the fact that sceptics like Christopher Booker and myself "only" have arts degrees. But actually that's our strength, not our weakness. Our intellectual training qualifies us better than any scientist – social or natural sciences – for us to understand that this is, au fond, not a scientific debate but a cultural and rhetorical one."

    In http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100210866/an-english-class-for-trolls-professional-offence-takers-and-climate-activists/ .

    Dunning & Kruger 'll have exited the building running.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's easy to be a critic when you focus on such minute details as 'knowledge' and 'competence'.

      Personally I pride myself on my innate deep understanding of the Imperial Court poetry of the Tang Dynasty. In fact, one day I may get around to actually reading some of it and/or learning Chinese, but until then my opinion is obviously as good as that of any so-called 'scholars' regardless of what your friends Dunning and Kruger might have said at the pub.

      Delete
    2. A long time ago before Dunning & Kruger, a wise person explained this phenomena in a way that made quite a bit of sense to me. When we dabble in new areas consider that a circle represents our initial level of understanding (or knowledge) of that field (or whatever). The perimeter of that circle represents our visibility to the rest of the universe of the relative knowledge; therefore, what we perceive to be the size of our ignorance. As our knowledge grows, the circle representing our knowledge grows and with it the perimeter and our visibility to our ignorance. In other words, as we gain knowledge, the more we recognize the depth of our ignorance. And with that, of course, the irony is that the less we know, the more we think we know.

      I try to use this “model” when I mentor young people in problem solving in order to get them to recognize that they probably do not know as much as they think they do. The idea is to stimulate their intellectual curiosity and get them to do the research. Sometimes it even works.

      Delete
    3. Too true. My ignorance of climate grows exponentially every year :)

      The other day I came across some quotes about self-deception, from physicist and chemist Michael Faraday, courtesy science writer Jennifer Ouellette.

      Delete

Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.