Thursday, September 1, 2016

WUWT wants universities to teach both sides of the flat earth debate

Sou | 4:44 AM Go to the first of 47 comments. Add a comment
Anthony Watts has swung into hyperbolic overdrive. He is incensed that in this day and age, university professors are balking at teaching creationism, and flat earth truths, and that gravity and climate science are a hoax. He didn't mention all those specifically. He only mentioned climate science, but it's the same thing.

Anthony has written a headline:
Intolerance by the Climate Thought Police at University of Colorado
According to Anthony's outraged copy and paste, some college professors wrote to their students and said:
The point of departure for this course is based on the scientific premise that human induced climate change is valid and occurring. We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change, nor will the ‘other side’ of the climate change debate be taught or discussed in this course, 

Deniers yearn for the Dark Ages of Disenlightenment

Do you ever feel as if you're in the dark ages? When academics in one of the most advanced countries in the world still feel the need to explain to their students that a university is not the place to argue that:

  • the Earth is 6,000 years old and was created by a man in the clouds (which somehow magically existed without earth)
  • gravity is a hoax. The only reason apples fall to the ground is because, unlike birds, they haven't learnt how to fall to the sky. 
  • our world is flat, and if you go too far you'll fall off the edge (into hell?). Though with gravity being a hoax, you might be able to fall up to heaven. Who knows? There are always two sides to a debate.
  • Greenhouse gases don't exist. Earth is kept warm by God's will, or his warm breath, or the sun, which preferentially shines more on us because we're better than the men on the moon and deserve it.

What shocks me

To me the thing that's shocking isn't that there are wacky conspiracy theorists who flock together for comfort in dim dark corners of cyberspace. I got over that shock a little while ago. No, what is quite shocking is that university professors feel the need to explain to potential students, who should be normal people, that climate change really is real and we are causing it. I mean we're 16 years into the twenty first century. The Scopes trial was almost 100 years ago! People know how to tap on their computer keyboard but don't accept basic science?

It's moments like these that make you wonder how deniers made it through school and into college. I don't expect these students are 80 year olds who haven't opened a book in seventy years and don't read the papers (most 80 year olds wouldn't fit into that category anyway). These would be budding adults who've just had the benefit of a high school education in the United States of America. If a discernible number still believe in nonsense after all those years at school, what hope has society?

(I hope to write about a book that touches on that topic one day soon.)

From the WUWT comments

Most people commenting are equally outraged that university professors don't teach both sides of the gravity debate, the witch debate, the alchemy debate, the young earth debate, the men on mars debate, and the "did NASA fake the moon landing?" debate.

John thinks America is heading in the wrong direction. It's trying to go forwards instead of toward the Dark Ages. He wrote how he weeps for the lost arts of superstition and snake oil magic:
August 31, 2016 at 10:04 am
This is entirely ludicrous! All three need to be removed from that institution immediately. America, I weep for you.

Judy W. opts for a logical fallacy, and extrapolates the explanation that the course starts with the acceptance of mainstream science, and decides it means that students are discouraged from exploring and questioning. I guess she also yearns for her doctor to diagnose her ailments by reading her tea leaves.
August 31, 2016 at 10:20 am
This is prevalent in academia, at least on the East Coast of America. The management now is in the business of “telling what the student is to think”. And that is considered “Critical Thinking”. This is why I am no longer teaching in a local community college. I wanted my students to be able to sort things out for themselves, so I taught them all sides. They often were able, on their own, to realize the truth. I taught geography.

Paul Westhaver thinks that anyone who bases their teaching on science must be a Stalinist. That's kind of inconsistent with the usual denier's cry of Lysenkoism, isn't it.
August 31, 2016 at 10:22 am
Yes sir -eeee folks,
Spend your life savings to send you treasured children to a university to have their minds destroyed by Stalinists.
It is important that we record the names of these people who intellectually harm our children and damage our society.
Please put them in the database for future considerations at a time of our choosing.

ScienceABC123 is another one for logical fallacies. Saying that a class starts from a position that gravity is real doesn't mean that SETI claims cannot be questioned.
August 31, 2016 at 10:25 am
To say that there is no debate allowed in science is to say there is no science.

ptolemy2 ponders all the climate conspiracy books that must be being burnt and must have some very odd notions about what is done at University. (Hint: tea leaf reading is not on the class list at most places):
August 31, 2016 at 10:43 am
This exercise in book-burning contradicts the meaning of “university”.

nc is very worried that education will become the norm in America if Hillary Clinton is elected President. I wonder if nc "studied" at Trump University?
August 31, 2016 at 10:48 am
If Scary Hillary gets in and has all the Supreme Court justices on her side this will become the norm. The once great US is crumbling before our eyes and China is laughing all the way to the bank. It is also happening in Canada with Trudeau 2.0 in office, the master of political fluff.
Where will we be in 5, 10 years, the outlook is scary.
About the only hint of hope is the political turn around in England hopefully will expand.


  1. Anthony's minions shouldn't be surprised by this development at CU. After all, CU's main campus is in Boulder, just a stone's throw from NOAA-Boulder and NCAR-Boulder, the twin lairs of those evil climate scientists.

  2. "Intolerance by the Climate Thought Police at University of Colorado"

    So WUWT wants to force the faculty to teach stuff they don't believe. It seems to me the 'thought police' must reside at WUWT. Of course, none of the inmates can detect the irony.

  3. What I found saddest is that WUWT helpfully provided its readers with the professors' email addresses.

  4. Awww, boo hoo. So the professors are sticking to the topic of the course, health and the environment, and not giving class time to the weird denier theories of those who reject climate science. What an incredible tragedy.

  5. Judy W's geography classes must have been something. "The earth has seven continents. Or 6 if you believe that Europe and Asia are one instead of two. Also, some consider Australia an island instead of a continent, making 5. And of course Greenland is larger than South America if you don't understand the way map projections work, so that takes us back 6, or 7, or maybe 8. This will be on the test, and any answer will be considered correct as long as you truly believe it."

    The community college is far better off without her.

    1. Good one, Forrest. Sums our dear Judy up to a tee :-)

    2. And of course the evergreen, the earth is really flat in spite of globes and all that. A globe is only a model!

    3. And of course the evergreen, the earth is really flat in spite of globes and all that. A globe is only a model!

    4. Quite true rattus...ships have grounded from punching in the wrong geoid model into their chart plotters. Famous case is Cork Clipper in a 'round the world race.

  6. Sou said:

    (I hope to write about a book that touches on that topic one day soon.)

    But Sou, instead of writing *about* such a book, why not write an original book yourself. You are more than capable of it. Apologies if you actually meant to say...

  7. ptolemy2 says, "This exercise in book-burning..."

    What book?...Plimer's Heaven & Earth, where he claims that human CO2 emissions are swamped by volcanic sources of CO2?

    That's the problem with denier science: there isn't any science behind it _ no data,no theory...or even a hypothesis to explain anything. So what could they teach; what would they use for course material _ old posts by Eric Worrall and David Archibald at WTFUWT?

    1. IIRC Plimer's book claims that CO2 both warms and has no effect on the atmosphere. Turns out I had RCed! Plus if you scroll down to 'Plimer vs. Plimer on sources of CO2' he pulls the same Schrödinger's Cat maneuver with volcanic emissions, too...

    2. jp
      Ah - so there are no books? Then what is this all about. What "non course material" is the expert in cooking recpies who is teaching a university course in climate saying is banned - what nonexistent books might get a student booted off the course? If no such books exist then our sagacious kitchen diva is delusional - perhaps a psycedelic ingredient too many in her latest culinary triumph?

      Like all arguments from you deniers of the fact that chaotic climate is always changing, a lot of jowl-flapping turns out to be over nothing at all.

    3. the expert in cooking recpies
      I was wonder that too. I thought she would be an historian rather than an English Prof.

      She just might be an expert in how climate change affects diets. Or how plants from the New World adapted to climate change when taken to Europe Or who knows without signing up for the course?

      So check out Laroche's expertise as it relates to the course and get back to us once you have passed the course

      You are likely too young to remember the Proxmire Awards but anyone can google Sarah Palin and the fruit fly grant where she make fun of a research grant to study a fly in Montpellier France. Oh well, Palin missed the fact that the study was related to a serious problem multimillion dollar industry in California.


    4. Anonymous says,"chaotic climate is always changing...", and we're the deniers for denying this.

      Thanks for your valuable contribution. That quote could form the first sentence of a textbook, you know _ Climate Science 101, The Deniers' Edition. All you have to do now is find a few more 'facts' to fill the book and there you have your course material. I always make the mistake of underestimating you guys.

      There's only one small problem. It's only part of the story, and without the rest, the causative factors, it's pretty worthless as a fact. It's a bit like a criminal investigator turning up to crime scenes just to take photographs and record the crime but not being interested in doing any criminal investigations. And despite the fact that 20 people have been murdered in his town in the last fortnight, he's telling everyone not to worry because murders have always happened. There's nothing you can do about it.

      You see, Mr Anonymous, in science there's this pesky and time-consuming thing called 'inquiry', and a little word which deniers don't trouble themselves with _ 'why'. Just collecting facts is not very useful, except on 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. When you and your flock kickstart your other brain cell to start asking 'why' is when those who ARE informed (I'm not one of them, by the way _ just a layman who thinks that appeal to authority DOES make sense) will deem you worthy of having a conversation with. Until then, deniers and their worthless opinions and 'facts' belong in the Borehole or the Hotwhoppery or wherever. Come to think of it, I don't know why Sou allowed you on the main thread. Comedy value, I guess.

    5. jp
      How distressing for you that I got the thumbs up from Sou?!
      You chaos-deniers are real inventive of finding ever new ways to be self-righteous. So now its about "inquiry?"

      You're right, facts are great. But the counter-argument is, by themselves they are of surprisingly little value. In keeping with the "kitchen and cookery" theme of this post, you need to spice up your facts with a nice drizzling of a couple of extras - a paradigm and a logical structure. You might call this a hypothesis. Charles Darwin put this very well when he said that the collection of data without a hypothesis is like sitting in a gravel pit and counting the stones.

      Here's an example - did you see the recent BBC debate between Brian Cox and the Australian politician skeptical of CAGW who came a poor second. Great entertainment. There was that unforgettable moment when he with the cheeks even rosier than those of Laura Trott (Brian Cox that is) held up his chart of 20th century temperature increase, to the general cathartic cheering of all present. Everyone seemed to think that chart by itself ended the argument. Now here's the question: does the mere demonstration that global atmospheric temperatures have increased steadily in the last 100 years - prove that this is caused by anthropogenic CO2? This is where the chaos denial comes in. There are two paradigms one could hold. One is that, before 1800, the climate of earth was a utopian and eternally unchanging Edenic perfection, and it changed only when us humans bit down on that apple of industry and capitalism. So only human activity can change climate. The second paradigm is that climate, being essentially a dissipative heat engine containing both reactivity (positive feedbacks) and friction (negative feedbacks) and therefore inevitably a chaotic nonlinear system, has continual internally generated variation not needing any outside forcing (as shown by Ed Lorenz in 1963 - Deterministic nonperiodic flow)?

      Which of those two paradigms one takes determines one's reaction to the chart famously brandished by Brian Cox. If climate is essentially unchanging then yes - any evidence of change is scandalous. But if you take the chaos paradigm then it means very little. Especially if the changes observed turn out to be very typical of many millenia of previous climate measured by proxy.

    6. @ ptolemy2

      to clarify is your point simply "the climate has changed before"

    7. ptolemy2, I have a few questions for you. They may seem rhetorical, but I honestly would be interested in your responses, because your position seems, well, odd to say the least.

      You seem to be saying that any attempt to understand causative factors in the history of Earth's climate is doomed to failure because it's all just random poop going on. Is that your position? There are no sensible causes, no determinable influences we can point toward to say, "this change resulted in that effect"?

      If so, what are the limits to the random poop? Are all scientific attempts to understand the universe really useless exercises, or just the parts of science that produce conclusions you don't like? Is reality nothing more than a jumble of knickknacks in God's sock drawer with nothing actually causing anything else? Or is that true only for the parts of which you disapprove?

      You also seem to be saying that whatever effects might cause some change or other, nothing humans do can have the slightest impact on the world around us. I'm not sure if you think that means humans are less impactful than, say, a whiff of bad breath, or if we are soo very very special that we are Above All That. Either way, you seem to be saying we're not actually part of the physically real world we only appear to ephemerally inhabit. Is that your position?

    8. @ptolemy2, anyone who uses the acronym CAGW loses instantly.

    9. Ptolemy2's complaints were remarkably well foreseen (well, not quite, his complaints are simply not new) in 2005:

    10. "before 1800, the climate of earth was a utopian and eternally unchanging Edenic perfection, and it changed only when us humans bit down on that apple of industry and capitalism."

      Your strawman is looking a bit worn out. You might want to find some fresh stuffing. Of course you might actually believe this is an accurate description of climate science, but you would be very wrong.

    11. yes it is a common feature of denier science, it doesn't really move forward

      I bit like condemning the whole science of cartography because the maps of 1600 century Americas weren't 100% perfect

    12. D.C.Petterson
      So we're lobbing straw men at eachother across the trenches? You make some fair points though. Yes of course some climate processes are understood. ENSO for instance, driven by the Bjerknes feedback, provides periodic pulses of warmth then cold across the Pacific and thence worldwide. In the longer term, we have at least descriptive understanding of Milankovich entrained glacial cycles. We can simulate ocean circulation to explain episodes such as the Younger Dryas and Holocene inception. We know that the nonlinear instability of the gulf stream due to the salinity feedback makes it prone to abruptly switching on and off every few millenia. At even longer timescales we understand how tectonic rearrangement of the world's map changes climate, creating the isolated and frigid Antarctica and a northern hemisphere now balanced finely between glacial and interglacial.

      In the more immediate term, I do indeed understand that human activity changes climate on a range of scales. CO2 might warm climate by radiative effects. But this question is a very complex one and I don't think certainty can be claimed. The positive feedbacks amplifying carbon sensitivity into values justifying alarm are almost certainly fictitious. Real Climate may have discussed chaos in a defensive kind of way but there has been no adequate addressing of Prigogine's nonlinear thermodynamics and adaptive structures, except in a way my Miscolczi whose nonlinear paradigm was "refuted" by linear arguments. Wrong language. It's not just about getting sums right. It's about finding the right metaphor or analogy.

      Yes humans can and do destroy ecosystems. On 1983 el Nino combined with overfishing nearly destroyed the largest fishery on earth, the Peruvian anchovy. (Now it's much better managed.) Growing populations destroy habitats, urban growth warms local and global climate, manufactured chemicals and toxins pose environmental risks, and so on.

      It's of course "motherhood and apple pie" that the environment and biota need protection. That does not mean that scientific questions like CO2 warming should be prematurely and politically terminated. Nor should the evident benefits to global flora of increasing CO2 be swept under the carpet.

    13. (phlogiston is an older name for ptolemy2)

    14. "The positive feedbacks amplifying carbon sensitivity into values justifying alarm are almost certainly fictitious"

      Ah yes, because basic physics is fictitious. Even without feedbacks it should cause alarm that we do so little to curb emissions, and go for several degrees higher. So far, several glaciologists are already certain that the current(!) temperatures are sufficient to cause major melt of GIS and WAIS. Sure, it may take a thousand years, but we're talking *current* temperatures, and we're on our way higher up.

      Maybe you do not consider that alarming, though...

      And those "evident benefits" are not so "evident" at all. Global flora needs more than just more CO2. Only where CO2 is the limiting factor increasing CO2 is of some good to some plants (those who work with greenhouses know you need to add additional nutrients, too, otherwise more CO2 doesn't work that well - well, actually, you do get larger plants or faster production, but with lower nutritional value per weight).

    15. Yeah - greenhouse effect deniers (aka physics deniers) pop up from time to time. They seem to think that saying they have an opinion makes it valid. It doesn't. Ptolomy/phlogiston's opinion is wrong and worth less than worthless.

      I mean sheesh: CO2 might warm climate by radiative effects. But this question is a very complex one and I don't think certainty can be claimed.

      The only true words in that section were "I don't think".

    16. The positive feedbacks amplifying carbon sensitivity into values justifying alarm are almost certainly fictitious.

      So the PETM never happened?

      You are a posturing idiot lacking even rudimentary knowledge of palaeoclimate behaviour.

    17. Phlogiston.

      You criticize radiative effects of CO2, then present an argument from incredulity? Oh boy. You have failed Skeptics 101, back to school for you! :-)

      "Real Climate may have discussed chaos in a defensive kind of way but there has been no adequate addressing of Prigogine's nonlinear thermodynamics and adaptive structures, except in a way my Miscolczi whose nonlinear paradigm was "refuted" by linear arguments."

      You really need to find a new hobby... or at least get out more...

    18. Gavin has a very accessible talk on chaos in the climate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqWfN3Zl8AM

    19. My Jack Russel knows more about Physics than Ptolomy/phlogiston. Terra my dog has never uttered as much nonsense as him. So Terra must know more. Bert

    20. Phlogiston,

      Sorry, I went away for a few days, meaning I asked the question and then didn't respond to the answer. But it looks like others did respond.

      You basically used a lot of words. What they boil down to is, "Stuff happened, and I don't want to seem like a fool, so I'll say mumble something something but I don't like it so it's not true."

      I'm unconvinced of the point of your nonconviction. "AGW isn't happening, but if it is it's not bad, and how can anyone know because it's all so complex and stuff happened before." Not really a solid argument there.

  8. 'To say that there is no debate allowed in science is to say there is no science.'

    Talk about Strawman 101! Denier lurkers, ever noticed how much you sound like your creationist / anti-vaxxer / moon landing hoaxer / 911 truther fellow-travellers? There's a reason for that...

  9. Prideful ignorance, what can I say? Stupid is as stupid does as we've all heard.

    "It's moments like these that make you wonder how deniers made it through school and into college."

    Uh, what college? Those that went got their degrees from bible school 'universities' (well, at least some of them did) and the rest either skipped the science classes or fell asleep. Most of these nitwits would not survive even a simple face-to-face debate on anything. They're proud of their stupidity and ignorance and like all the religiously deluded, they were it on their sleeves with pride (shoving their asinine inanities in our faces, like Watts and his kind tries to do).

    These people are a sick, sad joke. As in mentally unstable. Most would not pass a sanity test.

    They're the bottom dregs of society, unfortunately somebody gave them access to a keyboard and technology which permits them to spew their idiocy far and wide. They operate on fear and propaganda, which ironically, they deride as something everyone else is doing. The irony is monumental.

    Ah, you know who this is.... thanks again Sou for another entertaining post of the idiocracy.

  10. So a cook runs a course on climate change at a US university.
    And shew says that anyone using any source of information other than her very own climate cook book will be booted off the course.
    And then someone critical of this behaviour brings y'all out in a group gas chamber fantasy. Wow

    1. Good effort but Professor Inferno does this kind of satire way better.

    2. Hey, I'm a cook!

      Of course I am not a full professor at a good university with a research area directly relevant to the course content.

      Still, why do I waste my time on someone who is too dumb to create an nym.

    3. Come on now; does nurse know you've got access to a keyboard again?

  11. Not only are you a denialist fool (but I repeat myself), you can't even read. Nobody said you can't believe any idiotic fantasy you like, just that you can't waste precious classroom time spewing it. And the only hint of a gas chamber fantasy is from your fellow denialist, Paul Westhaver.

  12. This is what just arrived in my facebook feed: "Survival of the thickest now a reality, say scientists.
    Changes in human evolution mean that only idiots will continue to thrive, it has been claimed."

    Have deniers always known this? It might explain why despite being so ignorant, they always seem so self-confident.

  13. jp: that's a classic from the Daily Mash isn't it?

  14. Nice site - but the name's a little awkward.
    Seriously? Who says whopper any more? That's kind of embarrassingly dated. The nightmare relative that shows up every Christmas might use words like that - while pulling your kids' cheeks and laughing like a donkey .

    What would be a better name for the anti-WUWT? Maybe "pick of the porkies". But even "porkies" is long in the tooth -used by 40 something journalists that think they're still hip. You could try "Pinnichio's proboscis" - for those who still remember the little wooden fellow.

    Or maybe "Sychophants and burning pants"?

    Or perhaps it needs to resemble WattsUpWithThat for recognisability? Maybe an anagram would do it, something like "What Twit Hast Put" or "What Hast Twit Put?"?

    1. Or maybe one secured a domain name in response to Strayan shareholder forum 'Hot Copper', a place one has to deal with (various forms of reality) denialism on a galactic scale; ditto for sexism and many of the other 'isms that blight the contemporary landscape.

    2. Always great for the entertainment value, but a bit painful nonetheless, when a clueless n00b discovers an established site. As bill alludes to above, ptlomey2 really should go read our host's 'About Us' page before leaving his pigeon droppings:


  15. "I don't think certainty can be claimed. "

    A case of impossible expectations. But sounds so knowledgeable don't you think?

  16. Sou
    I bet you say that to all the guys

    thanks for letting me post btw


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. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.