Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hostess Anthony Watts and his conspiracy theory factoids at WUWT

Anthony Watts continues his foray into conspiracy theories. He's posted another Josh cartoon under the headline "Not so Friday Funny – Science is turning back to the dark ages" (archived here). The four words at the start of the headline were his only original contribution to the article. The cartoon was by Josh, and the two snippets were from a denier at the Times (Melanie Phillips) and a slime editorial at the denier paper the Washington Times. He got both snippets from the UK denier lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (which actively tries to get the globe to warm faster).

Two Times Conspiracy Theories

Melanie Phillips' conspiracy theory at The Times (UK) seems to be that climate science is a hoax because many small cohort biomed studies are suspect. The Washington Times editorial conspiracy theory was that the climate scientists from one of the world's most respected scientific organisations were engaging in fraud so as to appease the US President. At least that's what they are insinuating.

Our hostess - Anthony Watts

Under the Friday Funny was this funny comment from conspiracy theorist Rudd Istvan, who's a favourite of Judith Curry and maybe forgot where he was. Or maybe he just can't tell them apart. ristvan wrote:
March 4, 2016 at 9:38 am
Yes. There are two sorts of integrity issues. The obvious one is illustrated by Mann’s ‘hide the decline’, Karlization, or the many instances of academic misconduct exposed in Blowing Smoke essays. That is explained by the corrupting financial and career incentives Eisenhower first warned about. Less obvious but far more troubling is the failure of most of the rest of science to speak out about how shonky the first part is. Exceptions like Hal Lewis, Ivar Giaever, Richard Lindzen, and our hostess are the exceptions proving the rule.
When the history of climate science is finally written, there will be many ugly lessons.

Joe Romm is gone, and more factoids

In another article (archived here), Anthony elevated a very silly comment, presumably meant to lift the spirits of deniers who see their RSS pause crumbling before their eyes. Anthony said the comment was from Gray Pearse, but actually it was from Gary Pearse. He wrote how:

Looking up to the firmament, Anthony Watts added:
I would like to add a few other little known factoids to the excellent list Gary created. 

Anthony was correct, but probably didn't know it. (Can someone please buy the man a dictionary?)

From the WUWT comments

I'll keep it short and conspiratorial.

Le Roy
March 4, 2016 at 8:11 am
I look forward to seeing the bile and venom that the Alarmists directed at those with the temerity to question the dogma being sprayed over each other as they seek to blame anybody but themselves for the collapse of their religion.

Lynn Ensley
March 4, 2016 at 8:34 am
It is not science that is corrupt but rather scientist. This is what happens when society become unmoored from logic and reason.

Bad Andrew
March 4, 2016 at 9:44 am
db, And put briefly: if you are going to go Big Lie, go Big.

March 4, 2016 at 9:36 am
Sadly there those in the hard sciences who look to get into this scam because its such a good income source for any old rope .

March 4, 2016 at 11:59 am
And yet the world pursues madness.

March 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm
Awesome post: bookmarked for future reference. Thanks! 

M Courtney  
March 4, 2016 at 12:22 pm
The Guardian And SkS still peddle their wares to the gullible and fearful.
It’s not over yet. 


  1. Wow. Their world is collapsing because there is no data to support their odd views, and they project their failures to understand the world upon the people presenting the data.

    I'm reminded of the story of when Anthony Watts died and was sent to Hell. When asked what he ever did to end up in such a hot place, he answered, "This place is not hot, and I am not here."

  2. Love the illustration. As a Red Dwarf fan, might I suggest the addition of a gingham dress and a penguin hand-puppet? 'Mr. Flibble's very cross...

  3. I have to say that I really hope that social scientists are actively studying this prominent and extraordinary band of delusionals. So few cults have ever achieved such wide public penetration, have become so closely integrated with reactionary political movements across the West, and have been so profoundly let down by reality.

    And yet, as psychology predicts, the more the world disproves their case, the more fiercely they believe - it's pathetic and morbidly fascinating at the same time.

    If only they hadn't managed to permanently mar the course of civilization with their zealous imbecilities!...

    (And, again, that 'Josh' is a piece of work. A desperately unfunny piece of work, at that...)

    1. As funny as a dead baby's doll (as we sometimes say in Australia)

    2. Right wing cartoons are often completely unfunny. I am not sure if it is because they are just completely out of tune with me.

      I think it is because they really are just lacking humour and have no awareness of the idea of a twist or any self-awareness.

    3. Also because their sense of 'humour' is of the primary kind Freud more-or-less insisted was humour - pleasure at the misfortune of others / anticipated misfortunes (punishment) of others. He was right in their (head!)cases. It all seems intolerably crass to those outside the mindset.

  4. Well, Anthony is clearly doing his best to turn science back to the dark ages. The ending of that WT piece he quotes, about punishing NOAA scientists, is chilling.

  5. There are certain types of personalities that create a following like that...

    1. This is an interesting read that is related to the idiocy

    2. Thanks, P. That was a great read.

      Bob Altemeyer's book has been a permanent feature of the HW sidebar almost since day 1. I learnt a heap from it. I recommend it as essential reading for anyone trying to fathom the mind of a denier.

      You'll never fathom it, but you'll definitely recognise almost every hardcore science denier (blog commenters - the followers, as well as the "scumbucket" leaders).

      Christopher Monckton displays "scumbucket" characteristics. Anthony Watts behaves and seems to be viewed by other followers as more of a follower than a leader from my assessment (which is worth what you paid for it).

      When Dan wrote about how deniers will, with gentle persistent discussion of facts, appear to accept them, then turn around and head back to square one without a blink - that to me is one of the marks of the fake sceptics and authoritarian followers. It's as he said, as if their brain has no ability to think outside of a very narrow world view.

      With normal people you'll occasionally see them shift their viewpoint even within a discussion, like a light being switched on. With the hardcore deniers they have no light switch. Even if you see that a very bright spotlight is shining on a new piece of information, they are blind to it. They seem to live in a perpetual state of darkness. No, it's more like a very narrow dim tunnel with everything outside their worldview in complete blackness that no light can penetrate.

      I'd almost never come across anyone like these people in my life before. One or two in the workplace occasionally. But not in any numbers that could form the sort of lynch mob that deniers revel in.

      I think I'll read it again now. There's always some new insight to be had.

    3. @sou

      I contribute to a site called, it specialises in debunking "bunk" on the internet (a large focus is on the daft Chemtrail conspiracy) the contributors are very knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects

      Anyway it has a great section called "out of the rabbit hole" where former believers describe their descent and subsequent "resurrection" – a fascinating read


    5. Thanks, Tadaaa - I'd not come across that site before. It looks excellent.

      There are otherwise perfectly normal rational people I know who believe in one or other wacky idea. I think that's just human nature. I don't regard them any less for believing such things. I'd be surprised if any of us couldn't name some "belief" or at least a point of view that isn't strictly rational. Not if we were being honest with ourselves. (We don't have to admit it in public!)

      The ideas I'm talking about are for the most part harmless, like they or their friend have seen flying saucers (calling them UFOs, but they are toying with the idea they are aliens). Or some of the quasi religious new age type beliefs. It used to be stuff like the power of crystals, or biodynamics or another flavour of the generation thing where they can join with people of like mind.

      I'm not belittling these beliefs. It's part of being human. The more extreme ones could be like creationists - belief-based more than science-based sometimes with just enough science so that the followers feel they aren't being irrational.

      I think we are attracted by a social need to belong, which is a real need being fulfilled.

      And it doesn't have to be irrational. I'll bet some, perhaps most people who are active in sceptic societies do it as much to give them a sense of belonging as it is to spread rationality.

      My yardstick is "does this belief cause harm?" If not, then people can believe what they like. The more diversity the better - that's how insights happen :)

      At least that's the way I see it.

    6. yes, I totally agree Sou

      I came to the whole climate debate via a relatively recent interest in conspiracy theories. I was participating in a thread on 911/WTC – and all I did was simply examine each claim made by the CT crowd and in every case it just simply did not stand up – they always linked to dodgy youtube video’s or simple anecdotal evidence that relied on fallacious logic

      Like George Bush’s brother was head of security at the WTC (he wasn’t btw) as “evidence”, but logically if George Bush was planning a covert operation to blow up the towers then putting his brother in charge of security would be pretty daft

      But to a CT’er “they” are really smart when they want to be, but dumb at the same time – you simply can’t win against this warped logic

      It was while researching some of the absurd claims that I came upon the Metabunk website – and then to Potholer’s demolition on Monkton (I then watched his series on Climate Change).

      It all fell into place the modus operandi of the AGW deniers was identical, misunderstanding of the science, reliance on blogs, the heads they win tails you lose mentality – i.e. they like reports in the press when it reflects their views – but not when it doesn’t – then it is Alarmism

      Imo the AGW deniers will inevitably (and I have thought this for a while) move squarely into the “bat sh1t crazy” arena currently occupied by the creationist, twoofers, false flaggers and flatearthers

      And you are right the recent decent of WUWT in peddling CT is a reflection of this

    7. Well written Vox article on authoritarians and how to create them by making people fear. There is a system behind Fox News and Republican debates talking about ISIS as if they were a thread to the US. It creates the fear that makes people vote for corporate interests and crony capitalism and against their own interests.

    8. The VOX article is quite interesting as far as it goes. As I read it, I noticed there's no mention of religion, which has a strong influence on many people, particularly in the Southern States of the US. The data presented makes no mention of any relationship between these with authoritarian disposition and there respective religions beliefs. Many of the social issues, such as race, same sex marriage, Islamophobia, fear of outsiders, etc, may also be part of one's religious world view, so leaving that out seems strange.

      As there is mention of a correlation of authoritarians with educational level and economic success, what about the impact of those parenting opinions on child rearing? For example, does the age of one's mother have any correlation with an adult's later mind set? How many times does it take for a kid to be whacked and told "Stop that!!" or "Shut UP!!" before they develop a fear reaction to threats of violence? So many variables, so little time...

    9. While it has been relatively easy to map how people behave to certain psychological archetypes, one issue that I'm still troubled by is how to differentiate between trolls and true believers.

      I tend to start with the assumption that the other part in the discussion is honest in reflecting his/her opinions.

      The problem though is that the behavior of a troll as well as the true believer are the same:

      * Internally incoherent claims, eg. "paleoclimate records can not be trusted" vs. "it was warmer during MVP/holocene/some other period"
      * Repetition of debunked talking points
      * Refusal to prove that expressed claims have any basis in reality
      * Using a multitude of argument fallacies, especially moving the goalpost

      It has happened only in a couple of cases that the counterpart has inadvertently admitted to trolling.

      Is there even a need to differentiate between these two?

      I've noticed that insofar the most effective (which is just relative) way is to ask the person whether he/she can give any reason why his/her writing is not just that of a troll.

      After all, the motivation behind the two are very different, the true believer actually accepts his claims as true and thinks that expressing them can convince others even they have no basis in the reality. The troll OTOH expresses whathever he/she thinks can stir an emotional response in others.


    10. Polski, the default position I prefer to take is to assume that a person is making a genuine comment and not trolling. That is, trolling defined as wanting to derail a discussion.

      However as you point out, often even in the first comment there are signs that all a person wants to do is derail a discussion.

      Sometimes a person's history will be known, so that helps too.

      By the third or fourth attempt it becomes easier to distinguish. They'll continue to make false assertions rather than asking questions (unless they are a concern troll).

      By the 20th comment, if they continue to disregard any and all evidence put to them, it's patently obvious. You usually don't need to wait that long. If a troll posts 20 comments, it's often a Gish gallop, which is another sign of trolling.

      As for differentiating between a "believer" and a troll, I'm with you. I'm not sure that it matters.

    11. Personally I think the genuine examples of "trolling" - as in commenting to get a raise, are rare tbh

      And to me assumes to much premeditation and intelligence on behalf of the "troller"

      I rather think they are simply blinkered idiots

      Where I prob diverge from some on here is that in all but the extreme cases (personal abuse/threats) I would always let "trollers" comments stand

      It serves as a useful (historical) reference point in some cases

  6. When I clicked on the "The long whimper of failing climate alarmism" article there weren't any comments at that time so the first thing I saw after the gumpf was an advert for The Open Atmospheric Society. Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

  7. The only sign of Science turning back to the Dark ages, is the return of The Inquisition led by the Great Inquisitor Lamar Smith..

  8. Left this over on the Dark Side, we'll see if gets posted.

    "Erm, RealClimate is alive and well, continuing its focus on quality over quantity, Joe Romm's last post was a few days ago, the UK Climate Change Act was passed by all but 5 MPs, 100% of professional science academies support the IPCC conclusions, the Paris agreement was, extraordinarily, passed unanimously by all countries, last year was the warmest on record at the surface and the 'Pause', last refuge of the scientific scoundrel, is dead.

    Whimpering indeed."

  9. lol, Melanie Phillips doubts evolution by natural selection, so dismissing AGW must be pretty easy

    The AGW science deniers are getting ever closer to creationist lunatics

    1. Is that right.

      Climate science deniers have always behaved like creationist lunatics in my experience.

    2. yes

      one of the funniest reads I had in a while was another science denying UK journo - Christopher Booker

      he wrote an article questioning Evolution, but was fascinating where the comments

      obviously some of his acolytes - who buy hook line a sinker his AGW denying claptrap where suddenly saying - "mmm hold on, this clown is spouting rubbish about evolution, maybe I need to re-evaluate his crap on AGW

    3. I wonder how many one time fans have moved away from WUWT because of the wacky and unsavoury conspiracy theories he promotes. I'm thinking especially of Tim Ball's anti-semitism and One World Guvmint conspiracy theories. You do see lots of deniers trashing WUWT, so I'd say quite a few have moved on. Not that they've moved on anywhere better. Some of them have just gone from one wacky denier blog to another (like from WUWT to Judith Curry's blog or Lucia's Blackboard or Bishop Hill or ClimateAudit).

    4. Tadaaa, was it this Booker article: Charles Darwin zealots have made science a substitute religion?

      Choice quote:

      "It becomes increasingly obvious that, like the Darwinians, the warming supporters are so convinced by the simplicity of their theory that they are unable to recognise how much they do not know - and like the Darwinians their response has been to become ever more fanatically intolerant of anyone who dares question their dogma. This might not matter so much if they hadn’t, on the basis of their faith, persuaded so many of the world’s politicians to propose measures which threaten to inflict a real economic disaster on the world."

    5. Yes, sorry I should have put the link

      The comments are interesting

  10. Melanie Phillips in full AGW denial flight with Global warming is a 'scam' says Melanie Phillips:

    It seems that Richard Dawkins really got under her skin:

    This quote from her:

    "While he was writing about the "selfish gene" and the "blind watchmaker", he received a respectful reception even from those who might have disagreed with him..."

    Demonstrates a limited understanding of the reception of his book 'The Selfish Gene' for if she had perused a copy of the 30th Anniversary edition she would be aware of some distinctly hostile correspondence aimed at Dawkins for in that edition Dawkins proceeds to answer them. I have had recourse to purchase different editions over the years from loans to my children having been passed on to friends and never seen again.

    Phillips seems to be unable to keep herself from making inflammatory comments across a range of social topics whether from ignorance or bigotry.

  11. M Courtney is correct it's not over yet. AGW will outlive religion.

  12. This one for me, in addition to Altemeyer's The Authoritarians, is a great insight into the US conservative mindset, and how preying on the fear of us 'libruls' is a real goldmine:

    Yeah, the opening salvo concerning Romney was topical in 2012, not so relevant now. But once you get past that... wow! An oilfield in the placenta, indeed. Be very afraid of what righteous ignorance and religion combined can accomplish:-\

  13. The Times has published a letter from scientists responding to Melanie Phillips dumb article:

    It's paywalled, but they pointed out:

    Sir, Melanie Phillips’s premature obituary for enlightenment and peer review misunderstands the scientific process (“Science is turning back to the dark ages”, Mar 4). No scientist believes that every paper should be believed simply because it is published. Peer review does not stop with publication. The court of science never passes a final judgment but constantly re-evaluates the evidence to arrive at our current understanding....

    ...Although we make no claim to "hold the keys to the universe" there is no need for us to "claim" that carbon dioxide emissions are causing ocean acidification, as that is an undisputed chemical process. The effects on ocean life are not completely understood...

    1. I actually wrote to the Times in protest to her nonsense. I was staggered by it. Not come across her before, and didn't expect that that paper would entertain such "Booker-like" nonsense.
      Also Delingpole was referenced on WUWT to the usual nonsense from him at Breitbart. I wrote a screed in rebuttal, then realised the comments were closed - so, not to waste, I posted it on WUWT anyway.

  14. That is just too funny, that Wattsy doesn't understand that a factoid is piece of false or unsubstantiated information, which is about the only thing he and his pack of science denying conspiracy theorists are capable of producing - as opposed to actual science.

    1. Anthony often misuses words. He thinks "firmament" means concrete foundations or something, too.

    2. At the risk of defending Watts (shudder), Wikipedia cites the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "factoid" as "1. A brief or trivial item of news or information" and "1.1 an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact". Apparently when Norman Mailer coined the term in the 1960's, he intended the latter meaning, but the former meaning was used so extensively by CNN and others that it also has become accepted. I had to check this out because I only remember seeing it used to mean "brief or trivial" bit of information.

    3. Ah! I was wondering what the mocking was about there. I've only heard "factoid" as synonym of fact, but with a nuance of triviality. The morphology makes more sense in the mock worthy sense, but English is too creative a language to stay beholden to historical accident.


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