Friday, July 22, 2016

Ari Halperin falsely claims forgery by AAAS, with a whopper of a conspiracy theory @wattsupwiththat

Sou | 2:43 PM Go to the first of 23 comments. Add a comment
Today Ari Halperin wrote an article that was posted at Anthony Watts' WUWT. It was about the recent letter to the US policymakers signed by the AAAS and 30 other leaders of science societies. Ari Halperin wrote to scientific societies to see if they supported the recent letter to the US Congress. All the replies that he got confirmed support.

Ari didn't get any reply from most of the 30 societies (he said nine of the 30 replied to him confirming their support for the letter), which prompted him to falsely allege in his headline that "Ooops! Not all 31 scientific societies actually signed the AAAS ‘consensus’ letter". In other words, his evidence is absent. Non-existent. He just made that up.

Why wouldn't they support the letter? It was clear and simple and non-controversial. Here's an excerpt:
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

Ari's false allegation wasn't predicted by someone from one of the scientific societies who he claims wrote in an email (my emphasis). They just thought it would be a scathing piece:
Halperin is a climate denier and writes several blogs. Throughout the day, I’ve learned he has contacted many other societies with the same questions. Most are declining to respond to his inquiry.
Your response was good. I hope he won’t email you again. I’m sure he will write a scathing piece on the letter.
Ari's piece wasn't scathing, it was ridiculous. It was one giant conspiracy theory and a big lie built out of an absence of evidence. This is Telltale Technique No. 2 of climate science deniers: that they base their "arguments" on logical fallacies. His logical fallacies are mostly non sequiturs, they do not follow from his assertions. He added his own lies to the mix.

Ari Halperin's research finds scientific societies that supported the letter, none that didn't

Ari said he wrote to the AAAS and to each of the other 30 societies that signed the letter asking them if they did in fact sign it.
In early morning of July 6th, I sent fact-checking emails to the CEO of the AAAS and to the top officials and/or media contacts of the 30 other organizations.  
His emails weren't posted at WUWT, they were included in his "paper" as appendices. His email to the AAAS explains his conspiracy theory - that the letter to US policymakers wasn't supported by the leaders of the 31 scientific societies:
The American Association for Advancement of Science recently published a letter dated June 28 (http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/06282016.pdf), addressed to Members of Congress and written on behalf of 31 major scientificorganizations. Unfortunately, the posted copy of the letter is missing individual signatures, unlike a similar letter published in 2009 (http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/migrate/uploads/1021climate_letter1.pdf).

As a scientist and a writer on this topic, I am writing an article about this letter. Because of the unfortunate omission of the signatures, I would like to satisfy myself that the letter is authentic, and that it was properly signed prior to posting. Would you be so kind as to clarify whether the 2016 letter speaks on behalf of individuals or organizations? The letter starts out, “We, as leaders of major scientific organizations,” so I would also appreciate a list of the persons who signed. Ideally, I would like to inspect a copy of the full original signature page, either through email or in person at a time and place of your choice. If these options are unacceptable to you, please feel free to confirm the letter’s authenticity in another way. Thank you for your consideration. I would appreciate a reply within one week, as I have a strict deadline for my article.  

He also sent a separate email to various people in the 30 organisations. At WUWT Ari wrote:
That same day, a different email (Appendix A) was sent to each of the other 30 organizations. All these emails had substantially the same text, but each organization was contacted separately, usually with copies to multiple recipients within that organization. The organizations were not cc’ed on emails sent to their peers, and were not told that other organizations were contacted, except for the triplet of the Agronomy/Soil Science/Crop Science Societies. 9 out of these 30 organizations answered, and all 9 confirmed that they signed the letter. 
His appendix A also hints at his conspiratorial thinking:
I’m writing regarding a letter posted by the American Association for Advancement of Science and dated June 28, 2016. The letter is at http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/06282016.pdf, and the accompanying article claims that you signed it. However, since no signatures are present in the posted copy, I would like to verify your participation and hear your side of the story, for an article I’m writing on the letter. Would you be so kind as to answer the following questions?
  1. Did you sign the letter?
  2. If you did not sign personally, did any other officer, employee, or board member in your organization?
  3. If someone in your organization signed the letter, would you please tell me his or her name and title? Was the signature in a personal capacity or on behalf of the organization?
  4. Was there any pressure involved to sign the letter?
If you prefer not to answer these questions, please feel free to say so. I would also welcome your opinions on the letter’s content, or anything you want to say related to it. Since my article deadline is coming up, I would greatly appreciate a response within one week. Thank you for your consideration.  

His main logical fallacy was that because not all societies responded to his email it meant that they did not sign or support it. He wrote:
9 out of these 30 organizations answered, and all 9 confirmed that they signed the letter. 5 out of 9 replies flatly denied that there was any pressure to sign, and none indicated otherwise. Some probably thought that the question about the pressure was inappropriate. Thus, all replies and non-replies can be divided into two categories: “yes” and “no answer.” If the respondents acted independently, the 9 positive replies would be a valid statistical sample, confirming the null hypothesis that the letter was properly signed by all participants.

Ari then launched into a conspiracy theory. He discovered that someone let the others know that he was a climate science denier. He saw the email, which he described as "hysterical reaction" (see above).

Based on the alert about himself, instead of just reporting that all the replies he received confirmed that the letter was supported by the various societies, he made up his conspiracy. The conspiracy whirling around in his head was a mess of logical fallacies, mostly non sequiturs:
  • People from different scientific organisations correspond with each other therefore they are in collusion therefore there is nefarious intent.

The non sequitor is his extrapolation to the nefarious intent, needless to say. You can read his twisted thinking for yourself. It's probably best summed up in this section, where his imagination runs riot. He picks out the sentence where it was stated that most of the organisations Ari wrote to decided they wouldn't bother replying, and explained his fantasy:
“Most are declining to respond…” was a misleading statement. The timing of the responses (see below) shows that within a few hours of the first email, somebody (possibly Maura) identified this fact-checking exercise as a threat, collected information from multiple recipients, and made a decision not to respond (Fact #3). And many “scientific societies” which did not respond before that decision obediently complied. Like a good military – quick reaction, admirable discipline, and excellent chain of Command, Control, & Communication. But whom does this military serve?

– The alertness of the “consensus guard” is a separate indicator of foul play (Fact #4).

– Finally, Maura revealed the fact of the wrongdoing and her knowledge of it the in the last sentence: “I’m sure he will write a scathing piece on the letter” (Fact #5).
His article gives an insight into how the conspiratorial mind works. He reads nefarious intent into everything he can and more, and blows up and extends ordinary sentences into "wrongdoing".

Irony is lost on Ari. His "consensus guard" is an indicator he thinks there was foul play via collusion. However he apparently doesn't regard his publication of his "scathing piece" as either "foul play" or confirmation that "Maura" was correct. (Ari said that he himself made up the name "Maura" to disguise the name of the person who sent the email around.)

Nor does he regard the fact that subsequent to "Maura's" email, he still received four more responses negates his allegation of "good military". On the contrary, for two of those responses it was further evidence (to Ari). He wrote (my emphasis):
The last two, from AGU and COL, arrived five and six days later, and contained virtually identical evasive answers, obviously crafted with great care by PR people.
The "virtually identical evasive answers" weren't posted at WUWT, but they were in his "paper".
  • The American Geophysical Union, on behalf of its members and its volunteer leaders, is pleased to be a signatory on the letter.
  • The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, on behalf of its member institutions, is pleased to be a signatory to the letter you reference.
Stock standard stuff, direct and clear, but which Ari managed to add to his conspiracy theory as "evasive" and "obviously crafted with great care". He wrote (in his "paper") how he took these responses as evidence that "something must be wrong":
This is, of course, no coincidence. The author interpreted this answer as yes, but took notice of the delay, evasion, coordination, and excessive exertion.
Yep, a single sentence email denotes "excessive exertion". Got it. (How would he have reacted to two sentences? Overly excessive exertion perhaps.)

Ari didn't indicate that he got even one single response in the negative. Nor did he get a single response that suggested in any way that the societies were under pressure to sign. Nor did he suggest what form such pressure might take. He just wove a conspiracy theory around the fact that some organisations ignored his email. Absence of evidence was to him, with his warped conspiratorial mindset, evidence of chicanery.

Ari goes further and alleges forgery. He said, on no grounds whatsover. Despite not a single organisation responding that they didn't sign the letter, Ari wrote in bold:
Some organizations whose alleged signatures appear on the letter did not sign it prior to its posting, making the letter somewhat like a forgery, as well as contradicting its “consensus” claims.
This he then morphed into:
Almost every attempt of the climate alarmists to show broad support of scientists led to a forgery, so letter is in no way an exception. 

"Maura" underestimated Ari. He's not just a "climate denier", he's a full-blown nasty anti-science conspiracy-theory-monger of the first order.

From the WUWT comments

Most of the comments were from the usual crowd of WUWT conspiracy theorists and fake sceptics. They didn't bother to critically read Ari's article. They weren't fussed that all of the organisations that responded indicated support for the letter to US Congress. They just agreed with Ari's conclusions.

No critical reading from Henry Galt  
July 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm
A fish rots from the head down. Thanks for this further evidence.

ScienceABC123 extrapolates even further and writes:
July 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm
So the consensus on the “consensus” is a lie. 

jorgekafkazar even calls on Lysenko, declaring himself a full-blown "climate hoax" conspiracy theorist:
July 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm
Lysenko is alive and well, working as a climate “scientist.”
As does Tom Halla
July 21, 2016 at 1:28 pm
Nice forensic analysis of a common scam. Lysenko lives! 

Stephen Greene wants to know the political affiliations of people for some unspecified reason (or no reason at all)
July 21, 2016 at 1:32 pm
I believe that further research needs to be done on this letter. I would first like to know the political party of all of the signers and the societies/groups in general. I know, I know, that is a no brainer but confirmation and the individuals involved need to be identified publicly. No harm, no foul. The bottom line is that there is clearly emphasis on “non-partisan” in the title of the PR. That is step one. That would be the first article to go out to the media.
BTW Superb job!!!

Bruce Cobb says something irrelevant, since there was no "lie" except from Ari Halperin:
July 21, 2016 at 1:39 pm
I love when the Climate Liars get caught in their own web of lies. Fun to watch them squirm.

It was two hours before someone emerged who showed signs of critical reading. Nick Stokes asked:
July 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm
“Ooops! Not all 31 scientific societies actually signed the AAAS ‘consensus’ letter”
So which ones didn’t? 
And it took another hour before anyone else picked at the gaping holes in Ari Halperin's argument. Kurt (who looks to be a science denier) wrote in part:
July 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm (excerpts)
This post exemplifies the mistake of overstating an argument. The author alleges that not all of the scientific societies signed the letter, but at best, the facts stated to support those assertions indicate that not all societies confirmed with the author that they signed the letter.
The author also has some serious deficiencies in analytical ability. Within the same paragraph, no less, the author states that “Facts 1-6, as defined above, demonstrate that something was seriously wrong with the letter signing. Nevertheless, multiple hypotheses can be formulated as to what exactly was wrong. Speaking only of the Tier 1 organizations that did not reply, the following hypotheses come to mind:1) The organizations that did not reply considered my communication unworthy of their attention.”
This first hypothesis is not a “formulation as to what exactly was wrong” with the signing. It’s a possible explanation as to why nothing might have been wrong with the signing at all. And nothing the author wrote thereafter discounted this possibility that the organizations the author wrote to, who didn’t respond, simply saw no need to answer some random person who shot them an e-mail. ...

Nick Stokes pointed out the lie:
July 21, 2016 at 4:24 pm
“but there is no evidence to suggest that any of them did not agree”
There is no evidence about anything. Some people didn’t respond to his email, so he constructed hypotheses out of thin air. The headline is hypothesis #3. 

Javier is getting fed up with WUWT. I don't know what he expects. It hasn't changed from what I can see. Not in the last few years at least. This attempt to spin is by no means the worst that WUWT has to offer.
July 21, 2016 at 4:47 pm
The level of articles at WUWT continues finding new lows. There is absolutely no proof that any of those societies did not sign the letter. All the rest is just blah-blah. The title of the article is false and deceiving.
What counts is quality, not quantity. A few more like this one and I will stop visiting. I don’t like being deceived.

References and further reading 

Thirty-One Top Scientific Societies Speak with One Voice on Global Climate Change - Article at AAAS, with the letter from 31 scientific societies

The 5 telltale techniques of climate change denial - article by John Cook at CNN

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. I predict this will become a denier 'fact', just like the imbeciles I encountered on Facebook the other day who live in a bubble where they confidently toss out that the 97% consensus has been 'disproved by peer-reviewed science'.

    The climate debate has broken 'conservatism' generally - it's clear that given a choice between adhering to an evidence-based approach to reality and their ideological instincts there's not even the ghost of a contest. There's a direct line between denial and a world where Australia, having failed an IQ test in 2013, was just found to be brain-dead, the Brexit campaign ushered in the post-fact era in British politics, and the US is actually standing on the verge of electing a President Trump.

    Frankly, if the latter happens, that'll be the trifecta that proves the bulk of the species - or,at least, the bulk of the privileged jerks whose desires and opinions, sadly, are the only ones that ever really count - are too deeply irrational to even save their children, let alone themselves. Pity the rest of us - and many of the world's marvellous, irreplaceable array of species - get to be dragged down with them...

    1. "he climate debate has broken 'conservatism' generally"

      Conservatives in continental Europe have no problem grasping reality. Here only racist parties claim not to accept climate change.

  2. Oh dear, so now there's yet another self appointed Lord High Grand Auditor in town.

  3. Javier: "I don’t like being deceived."

    Really, it took 'this' post before Javier realised he/she was being deceived at WUWT?

  4. The level of understanding is dismally low.
    There is no way any organisation is going to answer some frivolous questioning of the reason for putting their name on some published outcome.
    If this is the level of reasoning with WUWT they have a problem.
    As to why one other person mentioned a certain person is the new presumptive president i have a comment.
    USA the land of lowest common denominator will of course embrace that kind of person especially if he in this case is a reality TV personality.
    It is the commercial nation and they deserve this type of outcome frankly.

  5. The question that first struck me was why would any of those organizations bother to answer a crank letter. Obviously 9 of them are more kind-hearted (had an intern with a spare half hour) than the others.

    Halpern seems to think that they had some responsibility to reply. Why? If they were government organizations, probably they would have but none were.

    By the way I loved the implication that the American Association for the Advancement of Science is " unashamedly partisan (AAAS head Dr. Rush Holt Jr. was a Democratic Congressman for sixteen years, 1999-2015)"

    Halperin seems to have missed/ignored the fact "Holt was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), a Department of Energy national lab, which is the largest research facility of Princeton University and one of the largest alternative energy research facilities in the country. At PPPL, Holt helped establish the lab's nationally renowned science education program. From 1980 to 1988, Holt served on the faculty of Swarthmore College, where he taught courses in physics and public policy. "

    Let me see, distinguished scientist with proven policy making ability and political experience. Clearly not someone that should be running the something like American Association for the Advancement of Science .

    Thanks for a great post Sou. I even read most of Halperin's post. Reading spaghetti code would be easier but it was fun.

    1. Obviously 9 of them are more kind-hearted (had an intern with a spare half hour) than the others.

      Exactly. Just shows how ignorant Ari is of how science/professional orgs actually work. He thinks they are going to respond in ernest to a crank like him? He's probably a relativity denier to boot. Sorry, that was uncalled for :-)

  6. The typical mix of ignorance and illogic driven by political paranoia, just a little more obvious than usual. Does Watts still claim WUWT is the most visited global warming denial site on the Internet?

    By the way, President Obama, the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives have all failed to respond to an email I sent informing them that I will be taking up the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, effective next Monday.

    As a result, starting next week, please refer to me as General Magma.

    1. Once installed in the Pentagon, could you please get you staff to send Ari Halperin a few thousand emails accusing him of various crimes. Failure to reply to any one email will, of course, be a clear indication of guilt. We should think of a name with which to dignify this pleasing method of criminal investigation.

    2. Guilty until proven guilty.

      A sound principle of jurisprudence.

    3. Guilty until proven guilty.

      A sound principle of jurisprudence.

    4. Does Watts still claim WUWT is the most visited global warming denial site on the Internet?

      Quite possibly. The Onion gets a lot of hits I believe.

    5. The Onion gets a lot of hits I believe.

      Yes, but it should, it being one of the best satire sites on the web. The difference between them and WTFUWT is with the Onion, the humour is intentional.

    6. Sorry, JK. I missed your implicit sarcasm tag there :-/

    7. Sarcasm tag? I am shocked and appalled that you should think my post was in the slightest sarcastic.

      Of course, one must say WUWT shows an effortless natural talent that is hard to find.

  7. This is essentially the same logic used by the deniers who claim that the 'real' result of Doran & Zimmerman is much less than claimed because only ~3,000 of the ~10,000 surveyed responded. They then divide the 'Yes' responses by ~10,000 instead of ~3,000, getting a much lower percentage. Of course, this simply assumes that everyone who didn't repond would have voted 'No.' You can't get them to understand just how ridiculous this is, no matter how hard you try.

    1. Yes. Using the same logic would result in perhaps only 5% or less of biologists supporting the "fake consensus on evolution" because very few papers explicitly endorse evolution any more.

  8. What's germane to the discussion is that no one's found the slightest bit of evidence that any of the 30 signatories wish the world to know that they didn't sign it.

    I suppose that's a part of the conspiracy though - "we privately don't agree with the letter, but we aren't going to stick our necks out and say that our fellow scientific societies are wrong, or that our signatures were fraudulently appended..."

    Who knew that mere scientists and scientific societies quake in fear at the might of the secret, hidden, underground, world scientific government about which no one knows a thing?

    There's a point at which conspiratorial ignorance and ideology start being a disease: WUWT is an excellent site for winnowing out the pathological examples of such.

    1. The main one that didn't sign it was the stuffy, dumb APS, where the powers that be apparently saw some difference between the letter and their policy. Goodness knows what, since both are non-controversial.

      The more credible excuse they made was that they only got to look at the letter after it was drafted (but before it was published) and they were miffed that their physicists weren't asked to help in the early drafts.

      All I can say is thank goodness they weren't. It would have taken three years and several committees (replete with science deniers) to draft given the APS record, and wouldn't have been nearly as clear or straightforward (nor, probably, as consistent with science). Meanwhile, the heat goes on, and on, and on.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Ah, so there is a conspiracy after all... The APS didn't sign the letter, because the other signatories didn't invite it to do so, knowing that it would disagree...

      Ergo, there is no global warming. Great, now I can rest easy! :-)

      Levity aside, history will not favour the APS's reputation in scientific circles. This will have no likely consequence in the lay world, but future physicists will rue with toe-curling embarrassment the APS's reluctance to put the politics and ideology of some of its members aside in an objective assessment of the scientific evidence.

    4. I think the APS will be left behind in regard to climate science. They can happily plod on looking for dark matter, strings, and Higgs boson and leave climate science to the experts :)

    5. Perhaps they could look for Force X.


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