Saturday, September 20, 2014

More on John Cook in Bristol, what WUWT won't tell you

Sou | 8:03 PM Go to the first of 61 comments. Add a comment

Earlier I wrote a short article about the presentation John Cook gave at Bristol University last night. His talk had the title:
Dogma vs Consensus: Letting the Evidence Speak on Climate Change

I figured you might be interested to know that you can now download the presentation from SkepticalScience.com. I believe it's a slightly cut-down version.

Source: John Cook Bristol Presentation
John used a mixture of science, humour and serious thought-provoking examples. Of course, he threw a couple of curved swinged? swung? lobbed? some cricket balls along the way, from the look of the presentation.

Understanding the science

To illustrate how valuable are public meetings on climate change, one thing John commented on was how few people can explain the greenhouse effect. In his presentation, he said that earlier this week he gave a talk elsewhere and had one person who could explain it, and they had an American accent. I gather from a tweet, at his Bristol talk it was someone from U Bristol who was able to explain it to the audience.

A taste of Bristol

I made a video of some of the slides in John's presentation (with permission), so you can have a taste even if you weren't able to be there to hear him speak. The slides include how the greenhouse effect works as well as showing evidence that scientists who know about climate agree on the cause of global warming. I included some Obama pics, which will annoy the fake sceptics :) The last slide is about the U Queensland course - details below.

Click on the square in the bottom right to view full screen, or click the YouTube logo in the bottom right to watch on YouTube.

Here are some photos of the Bristol event, courtesy of Katy Duke:

Credit: Katy Duke
John doesn't just hop on the stage and then disappear. In the photo on the left, he is charming someone in the foyer before his presentation began.

John took questions from the audience. In the photo below, everyone is listening to the question. Katy reported that question time was dominated by questions from "sceptics", which John answered with science.

Credit: Katy Duke
The person in the middle of the picture didn't put his hand up to ask a question at all, which must have dismayed the people who paid for him to attend.

Denial tactics and how to deal with them

John Cook showed some of the tactics of deniers and disinformers. The slide in photo below is Slide 30 of his presentation.

Credit: Katy Duke

Here it is again:

Source: John Cook / ScepticalScience.com Bristol Presentation

John Cook isn't fazed by the sort of nonsense illustrated in that slide. He often says that it's data. John's research interest is science communication with a particular emphasis on neutralising disinformation. In one part of his presentation he explained how it's not just rebutting denier myths that can suffer the backfire effect, it can happen to disinformers when they spread disinformation, too.

Source: John Cook / ScepticalScience.com Bristol Presentation

Unfortunately I wasn't at his talk, so I don't know exactly what John said. However he often cautions that care needs to be taken to avoid the backfire effect when it comes to communicating science and debunking denier myths. I can understand that the same principles would apply to deniers.

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial - A new course at UQ

If you're interested in the subject of science denial and how to combat it (and what HotWhopper reader isn't interested), you can enrol in a course at the University of Queensland.

Source: John Cook / ScepticalScience.com Bristol Presentation
You can audit the course for free, or you can enrol to obtain a certificate. Classes start on 10 March next year and run for seven weeks.

Highly recommended.

The WUWT Report of Bristol

Finally, this set of tweets and the one shown below are the closest that Anthony Watts has come to reporting the event so far. [See update below.] He didn't ask a single question. There's nothing at WUWT yet, still. Maybe Anthony is nursing his head after a heavy after-talk get-together with the denier gathering (it's only 10 o'clock the morning after in the UK).

Anthony was ushered into the event protected by lots of other fake sceptics, so he can't even boast about how brave he was to venture into a public lecture with normal people. He wasn't all on his little lonesome this time.

As I said in my previous article, I'm not convinced that the people who paid for him to attend will think they got value for money.


Anthony has just now this minute, posted his report of the Bristol event (archived here). It is muted, almost congratulatory, considering Anthony's usual stance toward John Cook and SkepticalScience.com. He was taken aback by John Cook coming up to him before the presentation, writing:
We chatted about travel, family, and other pleasantries, and I found him to be pleasant and reserved as well as treating me with courtesy. Such types of meetings face-to-face are quite different from what one would expect to see in written commentary or blog chatter. There was no hint of condescension between either of us and we left on pleasant terms.

From the WUWT comments

None yet. The WUWT article has just this minute appeared. I may check back later and post a sample.

Here's an archived copy of the WUWT article, with lots of comments, for anyone who's interested.


  1. Hmmm, the purpose of Anthony's presence seems to have changed: it is now 'simply to observe'. Which is odd because he had 'a great many questions' to put to Cook before the event.

    Is he venting his frustration by attacking Stephan Lewandowsky?

    1. I don't know what changed. He said originally that:

      Note: I registered since I’ve always wanted to come to England anyway, and this was as good as an excuse as any…plus I have many questions to ask.


      Apart from that he didn't appear to make any promises to the people who paid for his trip. But I suspect that they did expect a bit more than what they've been given so far. His article doesn't even describe the talk, just that it was "what he expected".

      Same happened with AGU13. He could have stayed at home for all the reporting he did. Nothing that he couldn't have downloaded from the AGU videos.

      I think he knows that if people give him money it increases their commitment to him, even (or especially) if he doesn't deliver. They live in hope that maybe next time...

    2. Hi Sue, I don't think he's bright enough to be so conniving. I think he sees himself as a crusader and whips up support but when he gets face to face, he bottles it 'cos he can't actually ask a question that sounds intelligent, even to him.

    3. Yes, the attack on Lewandowsky was pathetic. It was also a second attempt at rewriting history (in addition to the "simply to observe" comment).

    4. You may be right, Louise. Anthony did ask one question at AGU13, of Dr Hansen. He was very proud of that.

    5. Perhaps the "many questions" were posed during the small-talk before the presentation? During the presentation, Mr. Watts may have been hobbled by the need to fully concentrate on maintaining the mental force field which blocks the entry of knowledge -- in this case, the field had to be extended to surround the acolytes as well.

    6. It's interesting you suggest that, spilgard. I've just finished reading a comment at WUWT from someone who was at the presentation. His force field was up and by golly gosh he doesn't plan to let it drop for an instant.


      It must take a huge amount of stamina to maintain denial to that extent.

      It's a bit hilarious. I think he was talking about the SkS Escalator. He insists that only the blue lines are valid :) Probably red colour blind.

    7. The guy cannot differentiate between the scientific method which started to develop in the 17thC and natural philosophy which it replaced. Amazing the ignorance these people show at every opportunity.

    8. Sou, it's comforting to know that the shields are strong and intact. Imagine what might have happened at the presentation if the shield had slipped enough for even a single acolyte to become possessed by the demon of knowledge. The ensuing scene would have been straight out of "The Exorcist": the unfortunate victim floating six feet off the floor in a supine cruciform pose, eyes rolled back, frothing and gibbering, with Watts et al gathered round brandishing tattered copies of Plimer's "Heaven and Earth" while desperately chanting "The power of denial COMPELS you! The power of denial COMPELS you!"

    9. Do I remember it right that the only question of Anthony Watts at AGU was about nuclear power? For a conference about geoscience that is about as close you can get to not asking a question while producing some sounds. Not much changed.

  2. I just think that Anthony's (and all the others who attended and said nothing) behaviour is a classic illustration of the issues with the online "debate". People talk big and say things online that they would never say in a one-to-one meeting. Maybe it would help if people considered whether or not what they say online is the same as what they would say in public.

    1. " It is very easy to demonize your opponent from a distance on social media ... however, meeting one face-to-face humanizes your differences. "

      Watts made a similar point as if he was a bit surprised that John Cook was human and civil. I wonder if it makes him reflect at all? It will be interesting to see if he acts similarly at the Michael Mann talk.

    2. Well said. The strange thing here though is none of Cook's slides pulled any punches in their messaging. I'm sure, though, that the tone was calm and direct.

    3. The difficulty for deniers is that if they removed the ad homs from their blogs and only wrote about science, the ridiculousness of it would be even more glaring. They need the trimmings for show. Think how few comments there would be at WUWT if only polite comments with some substance were allowed.

      PS While I agree with the sentiment, I won't be changing the style of HW anytime soon, so you can all relax :D

    4. Sou, I've always assumed that what you say here is the same as you would say in a face-to-face meeting :-)

    5. Thanks, ATTP. I like to think so - really.

      After your comment I got to thinking what would I say to Anthony Watts or Judith Curry if I met them. My first thought was "nothing", I'd ignore them in that arrogant manner that people do sometimes. Then I figured that if pushed I would probably be quite blunt and speak my mind. Not aggressively, but forthrightly. After that I'd ignore them :)

      But I consider them disinformers, not your normal denier. I wouldn't be rude to people who are simply ignorant.

      I reckon people who know me would agree with all that, too. Maybe I'll ask a candid friend how they think I'd behave.

      I am nice to denier acquaintances. I don't think I have any friends who reject science. Nor relatives AFAIK. And very few professional colleagues. Only two clients that I know of, and that's about it. Otherwise just the odd person one comes across from time to time. (Very odd!)

    6. I was thinking a little about this myself. There are certainly some people that I would hate to meet simply because their online behaviour has been - IMO - so atrocious that I would feel hypocritical meeting them and then being polite. I may surprise myself, though, and discover that I can be much blunter in person than I think I tend to be online :-)

    7. "I wouldn't be rude to people who are simply ignorant."

      This is the crux of the question I continually find myself asking when confronted with likes of BillyBob or meteormike: Ignorant, stupid, insane, or just plain evil?

      Ignorant: Hey, we're all ignorant on different subjects. There's no crime or sin in being ignorant.
      Stupid: Unfortunately we're not all working with the same tool set. What may be obvious to some is very difficult to understand for others.
      Insane: I spent 5 minutes at WUWT and now I know more than the collective knowledge of thousands of scientists compiled over decades/centuries. Yeah .... and may I suggest you not play with sharp objects...
      Evil: Evil knows. These are the bad faith actors that know the facts, but intentionally twist, distort, and omit them to 'win' arguments.

      Some people are easy to throw into one category or another; others are more of a problem. Most commenters at denial sites are just ignorant. A good portion are stupid. A few, typically those with a pet theory to push are insane, but the peddlers and purveyors are almost all evil. They know full well the crap they're peddling.

    8. I"d be more likely to find myself face to face with Australian blogger Andrew Bolt or Maurice Newman than Anthony Watts or Judith Curry. (Although Judith does come to Australia from time to time.)

      P'raps I can ask you for tips on how to handle it if I do :)

    9. I like your simple categorisation, Kevin. Like you I don't worry too much about the first three. There are limits to what ignorance I'll allow them to post here, just the same. I've yet to come across a denier who comments regularly on blogs etc who can be persuaded differently. They will get to a certain point and then their denial kicks in. The people who accept they "don't know" are more likely to be lurkers, not commenters.

      The people who knowingly peddle disinformation for money, ideology, fame, because it's their job or whatever, they are the ones who I abhor.

    10. "They will get to a certain point and then their denial kicks in."

      I formulated my little guessing game originally for US politics. I find it's also applicable to economic views. Only after reading Altemeyer was I able to see the common thread - the right-wing authoritarian mindset. So in any individual case we're really testing to see if they're authoritarian followers: for the ignorant, inform them;for the stupid, explain to them. If they persist in denial, then they're probably RWA followers and good luck ever making any inroads.

      The other two categories really don't lend themselves to any set of facts or logical framework. For the insane .... try to make them self-aware; for the evil, do whatever you can to lessen their impact.

    11. I think it's very easy for people who are ignorant about a topic to turn what little they don't know into service of their pre-conceived biases and needs. See e.g. racists and genetics or history, people like Dawkins when they talk about the spiritual aspects of religion, me when I talk about anything. In the case of denialists, they have pre-conceived biases against communal action, taxes and being nice to other people, so when they don't have a clue what is going on in the science it is very easy to misunderstand it in terms of those biases. Plus it's pretty obvious that people like Watts aren't very nice - the tone of his blog, his scorn, his occasional racist or homophobic or sexist behavior, his response to being challenged, the bullying and intimidation and outing of anonymous commenters, his unwillingness to publish comments that show him to be wrong, the slimy way he throws fellow deniers under the bus when their stupidity is revealed in a way that embarrasses him. He is at the stonier end of humanity, but naturally people in that spectrum of nasty tend to assume everyone else is like him. So he assumes that people publishing stuff he doesn't understand with implications he doesn't like are doing what he would do in that situation - being deceptive and conniving to push a point.

      Bolt of course is even worse. I don't ever want to meet someone like that.

    12. A tip from my mother which has stood me in good stead : "Always leave them knowing you have better manners than them". A tip from my father : "Lose your temper, lose the bout".

    13. "I'd be more likely to find myself face to face with Australian blogger Andrew Bolt …"
      This 2 minute Shaun Macallef video may provide some background (at 1 min 15 sec) on the integrity and accuracy of any of Andrew Bolt's "opinion pieces". Macallef and Bolt both attended Adelaide University; Bolt for 1 year of a BA(failed) [in the apocraphyl tradition of Indian letter writers penning letters for the illiterate] and Macallef for 4 years completing his law degree [worked for 10 years, specialising in insurance law].
      This blog article may provide some indication of Bolt's struggle with basic research and his trend towards dodgy graphs; not to mention his lack of mathematical ability and accuracy.
      Bolt’s favourite mantra that there has been a "statistically insignificant" global warming trend over the past 15/16/17/18 years is "statistically inaccurate" i.e. it's not the trend that's "not statistically significant" (excuse the double negative). This term actually references the wide scatter or variability of the data, i.e. the noise, with the short period of the data so that "firm" conclusions can't be drawn about the actual trend. Although, from the "dodgy graphs" link from Jan 2013, Bolt recants about the GISTEMP data saying that it shows a "mild warming". He's all over the place.

    14. A friend of mine who knows Andrew Bolt related to me how he regards his ignorance as an advantage. Apparently his mistakes ignorance of a subject for independence, or perhaps even for objectivity.

      Or maybe he knows full well that ignorance is no substitute for knowledge and is just making excuses for his behaviour.

    15. He is a 'persona non data'. Which term applies to individuals who abhor knowledge. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more.

    16. Feynman said it quite well:

      “Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools - guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus locus -THAT, I CANNOT STAND!
      An ordinary fool isn't a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible!”


  3. Anthony's article wasn't up when I wrote my article. I've since read it and there are a couple of oddities worth mentioning.

    The first is that he didn't get the memo. He sat through the presentation but didn't learn a thing. John Cook talked about the backfire effect in his presentation. He even pointed out how it can apply equally well to misinformation. Anthony posted the John Oliver video in his article.


    (No need for me to say more. Except to add that Anthony didn't understand the video or John's presentation. He wrongly mixed up opinion on what the scientists think with opinion on climate change itself. He also wrote that the video looked like "bullying". 97 to 3 just isn't fair. The poor little deniers need to get on with it and publish some papers in the new OAS "journal".)

    The other odd thing is that he presents himself as a poor shy little person quite out of his depth with academia. Unusual for someone who usually likes to present himself as being full of self confidence. He seemed to think that Stephan Lewandowsky should have walked over and introduced himself. It didn't occur to him that he, Anthony, should have been ashamed to be in the same room with someone who he has defamed endlessly on his blog. That if anyone were to make a move, it should have been Anthony. Anthony has a well-deserved inferiority complex and lacks social graces. (He took the opportunity to tell lies about Prof Lewandowsky again. This after talking about civility. Anthony might act like a loser at times, but it doesn't stop him from behaving like a boorish oaf.)

    1. Even though I thought Anthony's post was reasonably balanced, it was disappointing (and maybe not surprising) that he was unable to avoid having a go at Stephan Lewandowsky. Also, I agree with you about the irony of what Anthony says. He seems to know more than experts when he writes his blog posts and then seems to expect to be treated as a humble member of the public when he interacts with them.

    2. I spoke briefly to Stephan who said he was uninterested in the chit chat online, too busy working. What struck me was that the scientists & the Institute were laid back but also serious & professional. The AW clan were sniggering & nudging one another like silly teenagers, then when it came to Q&A their hands shot up. Every question had been written down in advance & each was answered with sincerity and facts. John took care with each answer though said that there were perhaps more deniers q's than normal. He completely took the wind out of their sails.

      I see 'stewgreen' on WUWT is saying "you should have been able to pin him down with appropriate questions. It’s no use trying to make questions up on the spot which turn into long rambles, rather build an armoury of simple clear questions well beforehand and then use then appropriately." & CarolineK says "Anthony was indisputably the star of the evening" - ha!
      And final word to LearDog "My guess is that your presence changed the tone of the presentation. If you had not been there I am guessing they would have had quite a different approach." sure

    3. Any idea if this (particularly the Q&A session) was being filmed, Katy?

    4. Yes, the Cabot Institute said the video would be available in a couple of weeks - they were filming Q&A as well as lecture so hopefully that won't be cut.

    5. To be fair, I would say that I have to agree with Watts (!) on one point - the 97-on-3 'discussion' at the end of the Oliver video _did_ look like bullying. Those last few seconds, where the deniers are being shouted down by a throng of scientists, is the one portion of the segment where (IMO) Oliver missed the mark. Which was a disappointment, since everything up to that point was gold. (Perhaps a result of having only stage scientists/deniers available at the time of filming...)

      For as those present at the U Bristol talk appear to have observed, the actual response and demeanor of the 97 scientists in their debate against the representative 3 deniers would have been quite different - and much more effective than just all yelling at once. :)

    6. The John Oliver video only looks like bullying because you have the 97 in the same room and all speaking at once as the 3. It was a brilliantly satirical bit showing how isolated the 3% actually are. I thought it odd that Anthony posted it since he clearly didn't get the point of it.

    7. Sou- ref your comment above - Anthony is 80% hearing impaired and that type of (very noisy) environment is difficult for him.. The Cabot Institute were very professional and had made suitable accessibility arrangements for the talk. but before and after must have been difficult

    8. @Barry. Haven't a clue why you prefaced that with "ref your comment above". It's not the least relevant to Anthony defaming Professor Lewandowsky or suddenly faking concern about bullying - which is hilarious for a bully, esp given WUWT. But whatever.

    9. About feeling bullied by science, at WUWT deniers are used being the 98%, not the 3%. The difference is that the 98% can't agree on anything about climate science, except that they don't want to do anything to stop global warming (though they can't agree on whether or not it exists).


  4. Hahaha... Kevin O'Neill, what WOULD you do if you ran up against me in a dark room eh? My evil streak is pretty deep you know, and I wear one of those weird masks and breathe all funny too. On my good days, I am evil AND insane! Good lord you guys are full of it. Lucky you are all so smart and good and downright wholesome otherwise poor old humanity would really be in trouble eh?

    To be honest my best guess is that if I sat down for a coffee with you and didn't mention my denialism you wouldn't have a clue. Except for that slight twitch i guess...

    I'm also going out on a limb here, but I suspect you could all have a jolly fine time with any of the people you mentioned, Sou. You guys knock the conspiracy mongers, but you do a pretty fair job of it yourselves. Oh no, the evil old deniers with all their oil money and disinformation campaigns, here to bring civilisation to its knees.

    1. OK, you claim to be uneducated so that entitles you to be pig ignoramt about the science. But how come you are now apparently unaware that a billion dollars a year of fossil fuel industry spending on misinformation has been identified and reported not in piss poor conspiracy theory blogs but in the quality end of mainstream media? Just what sort of low digit IQ are you claiming for yourself now?

    2. Milly, I got 50 on an IQ test once, so it's at least double figures. Tho, that WAS on an internet thingy so maybe that doesn't count?

      A billion dollars you say? Man that IS a lot. Damn those deniers, they are all in on it, aren't they?

      But really, what's a poor old redneck to do? On the one hand he's got you sciencey types and the big oil conspiracy, and on the other it's the deniers telling him the sciencey types are in it up to their eyeballs furthering Agenda 22.5 or something.

      Which one is it, I wonders to myself.

    3. Your comment is on the wrong blog, Billy Bob.

      Oh no, the evil old deniers with all their oil money and disinformation campaigns, here to bring civilisation to its knees

      HotWhopper isn't ExxonSecrets.

      I know you'd like to be seen as Category 4, but I think you fit better in one of 1, 2 or 3. Of course, if Kevin and I are wrong, you're welcome to provide evidence.

    4. BillyBob - I view spreading lies as evil. It's a morality thing. Perhaps it's just a personal hangup (though a view generally shared by many).

      My own opinion is that I doubt you' fall into the 'evil'category. Evil *knows* the facts inside and out. It may be rude, but I find you rather ill-informed and when presented with an argument unable to deal with it logically. So a combination of what's behind doors #1 and #2.

      Here's a very simple example: explain paleo-climate, the last 150 years of SSTs, and the recent 'pause' within a coherent, consistent scientific theory that is not invalidated by known facts.

      You don't need to think it up yourself, you can point to the work of others - but here's the problem, there's only one theory that does so. Without that it's all handwaving and denial.

    5. Dammit, you want me to go read that, don't you? OK, OK, I will but it'll have to be tomorrow. Mrs Bob is even crankier tonight cos my typing is keeping her awake. My typing is really slow with one finger too so you can see where she is coming from.

      And yes, I guess I'm close to being hotwhoppered again so I'll leave it at that.

      Tho... I'm of a mind to offer up a couple of challenges, right here on good old Hotwhopper. Where sadly I spend far too much time lately.

      Let's see how I feel tomorrow. No big oil cheques this week so my judgement is a bit off...

    6. BillyBob - If I wanted anyone interested in climate to read anything it would be Spencer Weart's "The Discovery of Global Warming". Fully available as html or pdf downloads.

      Only by understanding the history and the basic physical principles can one hope to have a foundation for more in-depth understanding. It also highlights the pure genius of our predecessors. Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, Callendar - these men figured out the basics from first principles without the aid of satellites, global datasets, computers, etc.

      The sections on the development of GCMs are also mind-boggling. It's history. It's science. It's human genius and human frailty. It's also the best basic historical reference on the subject of global warming available on the web.

    7. Seconding that recommendation. Weart's book sweetly illustrates the smooth continuity of investigation leading to our present assessment.

  5. Watts and crew hardly rise (sink?) to the level of evil.

    Peppering the internet with misinformation about science of any kind is pretty much akin to kicking out the lights on a public stairs leading to a pedestrian underpass or subway station; petty vandalism can cause real harm. In the case of climate science we're looking at smashing out the overhead lighting just before the arrival of a big crowd in a hurry. Fill people's minds with the darkness of ignorance and they may trip and fall.

    Watts and the rest (Morano etc.) have nothing to be proud of, no more than any other hooligan vandals. Nor are they more evil than a poorly socialized teenager.

    1. Watts and Morano are both old enough to know better, but I don't see them in quite the same light.

      Watts, I think, is simply not as smart as he thinks he is, to put it politely, and apparently incapable of self-reflection -- hence his blatant hyporcrisy (e..g, saying Hansen and Mann should be fired while howling loudly when that loony chem instructor from U of Oregon was let go).

      Morano, on the other hand, has a long track record of political dirty tricks. It's hard for me to see him as anything other than lying liar who tells lies.

    2. Morano is also a skilful media performer away from CD. That's how he earned MMA's Misinformer of the Year award.

    3. I have no doubt that Morano is a sociopath.

      Watts is very stupid, and shows evidence of being very insecure about it. His defensiveness, his need for attention and approval, his arrested emotional development. He's the weak kid who hangs with a bully's cronies.

      Lindzen I despise because he had a choice how to be, and chose to be who he is. Spencer and Christy only rate contempt.

  6. In-person meetings can be fun to watch.
    Back ~2005, friends across the street invited me to a talk by Burt Richter on climate and energy in their homeowners' association meeting room, about 30 people. Burt is a Nobel Physicist (which does not per se make him a climate expert), but after he "retired" he studied up on climate by talking to experts, noting in his book that a Nobel does tend to open doors.:-) He drove an APS task force on energy efficiency and later wrote a book ("Smoke and Mirrors"). I.,e., serious guy

    So, here was a meeting of local people. The first part of Burt's talk resembled Inconvenient Truth, although less flashy. When we got to Q&A, 2 guys sitting together started to pepper Burt with questions right out of the dismissive playbook well cataloged by now at Skeptical Science.

    Burt answered them patiently, but finally got tired, and said something like:
    you guys are repeating nonsense started by physicists* I know personally, who've gone to the dark side and I don't think much of them.

    At that point, the pair visibly shriveled in their seats, suddenly realizing that:
    a) Nobel physicists who've studied up on climate might know more than they did
    b) They'd just looked like fools in front of their neighbors

    When we broke for coffee, they slunk out without talking to anyone.

    *I had a pretty good idea who he was talking about, as would anybody who's read Merchants of Doubt.

  7. Billy Bob seems like a reasonalbly decent guy, maybe there's a danger of chasing away people just because we don't agree. I know this is a snark blog and that's to be expected, but maybe let's relax a bit. All this are you "evil" or just stupid stuff is a bit over the top.

    Basically what is comes down to for people like me, who don't have specialist knowledge of the area, is a question of what's more likely. Given the history of industry downplaying the dangers of their products, lead, asbestos, tobacco etc, it doesn't seem unlikely that the same thing is going on with the fossil fuel industry.

    Then there's the allegation that researchers are just towing the government line for the money, this is an area where I actually have knowledge, and it seems like a pretty bullshit claim to me. Research grants don't make anyone rich, nearly all of the money goes into doing the actual research, often they're hardly enough to live off. It's also a massive pain in the arse to jump through the endless array of hoops to actually get one.

    Finally there's this crap about it's all under control of the Government, I mean come on. It pisses me off no end that on the sceptic blogs no body seems to challenge the absloute stupidity of these claims. No Western Government is going to benefit from introducing legislation to address Climate Change, we've just seen the recently departed Labor Goverment basically lose power because of it. The now Liberal party is doing their best to ignore it. If I was some maniacial despot I'd actually be more inclined to do nothing and then reap the rewards when the shit hits the fan.

    Just a thought...

    Rational Troll

    1. Rational Troll - on your tone criticisms:

      Billy Bob does seem like he might be a nice guy or it could be the onboard persona he's chosen to adopt. Who knows? His comments so far suggest a bit of both, with him flip-flopping between folksy/dumb and articulate/educated.

      Whatever - he comes here to be challenged or, more likely, to challenge. I don't let him get away with making up stuff or making bald wrong statements based on nothing at all. This blog is not about being nice to people spouting denialisms.

      Also your reference to "evil" and "stupid" stuff is from the comments, not from my articles. It was Billy Bob himself who made much of it.

      Billy Bob could be ignored or mildly rebuked if not for the fact that he keeps making up stuff. In my experience, after a while, some deniers get way out of hand here. They start posting comment after comment in quick succession, full of nonsense if not downright defamatory (usually of scientists). Billy Bob hasn't gone that far by the way.

      I prefer not to delete posts and only ban people for extreme behaviour. Moving comments to the HotWhoppery is a pain. When mild rebukes don't get through, I up the ante.

      I don't think anything in the comments will chase people away. While not as civil as ATTP or SkS, the general tone of HW comments are in keeping with the style of the blog. We don't go overboard. I don't permit the sort of crap in the comments that you get at places like WUWT. I do insist on a certain level of decorum. People are more likely to decide whether to read HW based on the articles. It's not for everyone. There are plenty of other places where people can discuss climate and learn about it.

    2. I generally agree with what you've said. I don't have a problem with snark and you're gracious enough to tell everybody to expect it on your blog.

      Something that pissed me off no end when I read the blogs of Morhasy, Jo Nova, Watts and the like, is that morons are allowed to get away with saying the dumbest shit. On Jo's site someone commented they wished the Sept 11 hijackers had hit the UN building, and nobody stood up and said hey, that's bullshit, you're a stupid sack of dicks. When I had a go at this douchbag some dumbarse even jumped to his defence. The thing is many blogs are tarnished by the brush of the people who comment there.

      I like this blog and I like reading the comments, and I, perhaps stupidly, feel an obligation to say I think throwing around accusations of being evil is stupid.

      Having someone like BillyBob around can make the comments more interesting, and while I might not agree with what he says, he actually seems like a reasonable dude. I don't think Billy is another Viscount Eugene Dyson Worrell and will hijack every thread squealing incessantly about eugenics.

      Rational Troll

    3. Thanks. I possibly allow commenters who accept science a bit more slack than those who don't - as far as snark goes. Not sure about that. There aren't too many science blogs where people can let off steam at the foolishness and worse elsewhere on the internet.

      I do delete some comments though. Eg I don't generally allow extreme language or allusions to physical violence or over the top personal attacks (regardless of their take on science).

      People who question science generate lots of comments. It's common blog knowledge that to go against the stream generates discussion :D (It's what trolls trade on too.)

      On the plus side, they provide more examples of memes that can be demolished. Just the same, there are limits to what can be tolerated. The last thing I want is to have HotWhopper turn into a Curry-style gish gallop where laypersons can't distinguish nonsense from science. And regular readers have said the same thing.

    4. BTW - there were no accusations of "evil" directed at anyone who comments here. The "evil" comment was how Kevin described his category 4 - disinformers who knowingly propagate lies about climate. That sort of thing is immoral, surely. I can understand, given the consequences of increasing CO2 emissions, many would agree that deliberately generating propaganda aimed at increasing CO2 emissions is an evil thing to do.

      I've no problem with a comment like that at all. Perhaps you can elaborate if you think it's over the top.

    5. I have been trying for some time now to come up with a simple analogy that I could use to explain to "Skeptics" why what they are doing isn't science. Then I thought of the Cargo Cult analogy, and funnily enough, found that Richard Feynman had got there before me! In a speech in 1974,he coined the term "Cargo Cult Science". But He tells it much better than me....

      "In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land."

      This is exactly what the Denial Machine does:
      They have Fake theories propounded by Fake scientists
      Publish in Fake Science Journals with Fake peer review
      For fake,pseudo scientific journals ("Think Tanks")

      But somehow the Climate Skeptics can't see it is all wrong, mainly because most of them do not have a sufficient grounding in science to follow the argument, whilst being totally confident that they "know enough" (aka Billy Bob).

      So yes, they are just like the south sea island natives. They think they have all the structures in place, with their own scientists, Journals and various (Big Oil funded) organisations, but they don't realise it is all useless; their planes are never gonna land.

    6. I've used the Cargo Cult analogy myself. It not only applies to science, but to the forms of evidence-based debate. Some of the most persistent deniers imitate most of the forms that are seen when one successfully prosecutes an evidence-based argument including the specific language and the names for various concepts up to and including various fallacies...

      ...only they don't demonstrate that the forms they use actually apply to the argument at hand (often including failing to stump up evidence that supports it).

      It's quite a staggering thing to watch. You can point out until you're blue in the face that merely alleging that someone is engaging in fallacy X is meaningless unless you actually that they are doing so, and that asserting that the evidence leans heavily towards your conclusion and away from the others means nothing unless you both cite the evidence and promote a valid argument for inferring your conclusion from it. And they will go around and around this Cargo Cult debate loop, apparently forever.

      Another perspective might be that they're engaging in something many politicians and business leaders and (especially) PR people engage in - stating what they wish people to believe (or if you're more charitable, what they wish was true) as if it were already true.

      It's almost like a wish-fulfilment affirmation or an incantation - if only I say sincerely enough what I wish were true, then surely it will be!

  8. http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/04/18/pseudoskeptics-are-not-skeptics

  9. With regard to Watt's insecurities and wanting to be part of the "club". I seem to recall that same sort of attitude on McIntyre's part at one AGU meeting, (no I wasn't there) and having it show up in the comments at RealClimate.

    1. I suspect that what people like Watts and McIntyre don't realise is that even relatively junior researchers may have attended a good number of conferences and met many of those who work in their field a good number of times. It's not that there is a "club", it's that you simply know people.

    2. And not having pissed off every one before hand with accusations of fraud.


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