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« International Disinformation Agency | Main | Worse than we thought »
Tuesday
May152012

Dealing with The Heretic

Richard Bean's play The Heretic has been causing a few ructions in Australia ahead of its opening in Melbourne. Richard forwards this email, which was sent to him by Andrew Glikson, a scientist at the Australian National University.

Mr Richard Bean
Director
Melbourne Theatre Company

Dear Mr Richard Bean

As an Earth and paleo-climate scientist of some 45 years-long experience and more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, I suggest the show “The Heretic”, which I have not seen but about which I have read, can only lead to trivialization and further denial of what the scientific world regards as the greatest threat humanity and nature are facing.

I suggest the show plays into the hands of those who support the use of the thin terrestrial atmosphere (breathable thickness of less than 10 km) for further carbon emission on top of the 350 billion tons of carbon already emitted since the 18th century and >150 billion tons carbon released by land clearing, fires etc.. As shown in my enclosed paper, the pace of CO2 rise over the last 40 years, recently reaching >2 ppm CO2/year, has now exceeded any recorded for the last 65 million years, while the atmospheric level of 394 ppm CO2 is now near that of the warm Pliocene era some 3 million years-ago. Our empirical evidence is based on direct observations of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere system by the world’s climate monitoring bodies - including NOAA, NASA, NSIDC, Hadley-MET, Tyndale, Potsdam, CSIRO, BOM and other.

Opinion and "belief" are no substitute for evidence. Those who doubt the basic laws of nature and empirical data are always welcome to submit research to peer review journals where their papers will be treated the same as any other. In so far as their propositions are upheld, anyone who is able to demonstrate as if:

  1. The Earth's climate is not warming, or
  2. The anthropogenic release of >500 billion tons of carbon since the 18th century is not the primary factor responsible for global warming

is bound to receive the highest accolades.

I wonder whether such a show, if concerned with denial of the holocaust of world war II, would have been conceived?

I suggest that, given the threat of anthropogenic global warming to the terrestrial climate and to marine ecosystems, a theatric show making mockery of the gravity of the climate issue for future generations can only be seriously mistaken.

Yours sincerely

 

Andrew Glikson
Earth and paleo-climate scientist
Australian National University

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Reader Comments (125)

Let's do the checklist:

1. Appeal to authority in the first para - CHECK
2. Complaining about a piece thet haven't bothered to read/see - CHECK
3. Mention that papers have been pal(peer) reviewed - CHECK
4. Mention that no skeptic paper has been pal(peer) reviewed - CHECK
5. Mention of haulocost deniers - CHECK
6. Promotion of own paper - CHECK

This one is "by the book".

May 15, 2012 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Beyond parody.

It's interesting, though, that "respectable climate scientists" are now openly playing the "holocaust denier" card - after they told us that the equivalence only existed in our fevered denier imagination.

May 15, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I hope Richard Bean replies. He can be quite forthright, I believe...

May 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Whatever you may think of his beliefs it's hard to fault his moderation and politeness. Nor can we assume he intended it for publication.

I wonder if it's true that anybody can submit a paper for peer review where it will "be treated the same as any other". I take leave to doubt it.

May 15, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterRich

>“The Heretic”, which I have not seen..

Time he did, then, isn't it?

May 15, 2012 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Perhaps the ANU could buy a few copies if the script, round up some die-hard sceptics again, and force them to attend a ritual book-burning.

That's the way science progresses.

May 15, 2012 at 9:55 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I'll start it off http://archanth.anu.edu.au/staff/dr-andrew-glikson - Lat paper he produced: Glikson, A.Y., 2009. Archaean asteroid impacts, associated banded iron formations and MIF-S anomalies: tests of potential relationships, Geology (EPSL).

May 15, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

I note the inversion of the 'null hypothesis'...
"2. The anthropogenic release of >500 billion tons of carbon since the 18th century is not the primary factor responsible for global warming"
...which seems to be a favorite ploy of post-normal science.

May 15, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

'Opinion and "belief" are no substitute for evidence.'

Since the letter offers only opinion and assertion and no evidence, perhaps Mr. Glikson should follow his own advice and provide some actual evidence, rather than tired soundbites with lots of TLAs and scary sounding strings of zeroes in them.

May 15, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

jaw dropping WOW...What a self righteous prig

May 15, 2012 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Wow! Mr Glikson doesn't mess about!

In essence, Mr Glikson is unhappy that a play, in a theatre, i.e. and art form - has the potential power to contribute to the demise of the human race. Well that's some pretty impressive play then!

Mr Gilikson is clearly a cheerleader for the "science is settled" camp. Furthermore, he takes that one step further by arguing because the situation is so serious, and the science is settled, no alternative view, argument, research, hypothosis, - or piece of art, etc, should suggest otherwise.

Mr Glikson has such contempt for the intelligence of the average human being, he wants to ensure that only clear "policy" messages are delivered. Humans must not be allowed to be given alternative views, conclusions, argument - lest they stray from the mantra.

As is often the case, Mr Glikson envokes the unimpeachable "laws of nature" argument. He doesn't understand that of course laws of nature will apply - but you just have to include all the laws! To do that, you have to know everything about how the climate works - but we don't!

In a recent European Champions League Semi Final Match (soccer), Barcelona were at home to Chelsea. Barcelona are (I think this is pretty much agreed) the best club football team in the world. Their expert players created a situation where Barcelona had 80% of the possession, 80% of the territory, 90% of the the attempts on goal, etc. The evidence was clear, Barcelona was the best team by far. Unfortunately, one piece of killer evidence is missing - Chelsea scored more goals than Barcelona - and won.

May 15, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames

Australian National University, Bish. Enuff said. That's Will Steffen's house, ground zero of the climate scientist "death threats" exaggeration malarkey.

May 15, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterWB

What are simply astonishing letter. It's almost inconceivable that a grown-up could have written it.

Let's just check. The letter writer's side in this debate have:
A. All the money.
B. Control of all of the major peer-reviewed scientific publications.
C. Control of the vast majority of the media; both newspapers and broadcast.
D. Control of the vast majority of Western academia and education.
E. Complete control of the Western arts establishment; films, documentaries, theatre, public arts, television drama, comedy, books (fiction and non-fiction), modern dance and uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

Yet somebody daring to go up against that entire edifice is dangerous?

Do they not understand just how scared this kind of reaction makes them look?

May 15, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

as a 'paleo-climate scientist of some 45 years-long experience and more than 150 peer-reviewed publications'

and he still confuses cause and effect. Every ice core study that I am aware of shows that a rise in temperature comes 500-800 years before CO2 rise..All pal reviewed papers as well.

May 15, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Glikson has a prior reputation down under.

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/glikson_flicked/

May 15, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

Me thinks Mr Glikson has been in post for too long! He mentions nothing of CO2 uptake by the biosphere thus greening the planet, presumably he too believes the IPCC unscientific assertion that manmade CO2 stays in the atmosphere for ever & ever, amen! He mentions nothing of ice-ages nor that the last four interglacials (in which we are at present) were warmer than today by up to 3 degrees C, without fossil fuel burning & modern day human activity, something the IPCC actually acknowledges believe it or not - in the small print but don't let a scientific fact get in the way of a new book or paper! As for "but about which I have read", he identifies nothing of what he has read, the implication being that all the negative anti humanity crap that has been said about it is accurate! Oh well never mind, there is always someone isn't there?

May 15, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

I knew it. Just did a quick check. Clive Hamilton, an Australian 'intellectual' who believes we have to suspend democracy because of global warming is so urgently terrifying (to Clive, anyway) wrote a piece for theconversation.edu.au an Australian taxpayer funded website and Andrew Glikson of the Australian National University spent much of his time commenting on Hamilton's post including one comment from which he's lazily made minor modifications to to craft it into his self-righteous letter to Richard Bean. This is how it goes: alarmist A hears about the play, writes a post about it on an alarmist website, alarmist B reads that post and gets all agitated, commenting over and over, and poor old playwright C ends up the 'beneficiary' of alarmist B's agitation. Oz taxpayer dollars at work. Here's the thread for the strong of stomach.

http://theconversation.edu.au/heretic-melbourne-theatre-company-runs-with-the-goons-6871

May 15, 2012 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterWB

He is a paleoclimate scientist. That explains it.

May 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Yes Shub. It seems rare for "people's persons" to join the paleoclimate ranks.

May 15, 2012 at 10:41 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

The obligation on dramatists accurately to reflect the state of peer-reviewed science is a new one on me, but I suppose it makes perfect sense from a totalitarian perspective. It is not so different from the Stalinist attack on Shostakovich because his work was viewed as insufficiently "democratic".

I'm sure that Australian audiences will greatly enjoy the play. When I saw it in London, there was a palpable sense of relief that jokes could be made at the expense of climate scientists.

May 15, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Opinion and "belief" are no substitute for evidence. Those who doubt the basic laws of nature and empirical data are always welcome to submit research to peer review journals where their papers will be treated the same as any other.

Dear Dr Glickson
Rightly you say "Opinion and "belief" are no substitute for evidence." In the light of this, why do you, as a scientist, offer mere opinions regarding this play, without even having seen it? And why do you offer mere belief that " their papers will be treated the same as any other"? For indeed, the actual evidence suggests the opposite of what you believe. Evidence, nicely exemplified several times over by this very letter, is that "contrarian" opinions do not get a fair hearing, however well the papers are written in scientific terms. What kind of "evidence" do you believe that "climate skeptics" blogs represent? Have you tested that belief, in accordance with scientific method? Have you examined the evidence that climate skeptics talk about? Have you examined the evidence for mainstream suppression of their views? Do you believe we are all in denial? Have you for instance looked at my own web page? Is that the work of someone in denial? Or could you too be subject to the possibility of being "in denial"?

May 15, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

Martin, thanks for that link. It takes you to this Planet eaters: Chain reactions, black holes and climate change. Shows that there are some who read their geology/climate textbooks as though reading porn.

May 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM | Registered Commentershub

'The Conversation' is now cynically censoring anyone who argues that 'the consensus' is fundamentally wrong.

May 15, 2012 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I find the amusing thing is that he admits he hasn't seen it, as if that didn't matter.
It's almost an allegory for the whole climate science saga : I believe something someone told me.

May 15, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Looking at his own claims, and scaling earth's life to one year; assuming it is now midnight on Dec 31st.

CO2 is rising faster than at any point since December 28th.
CO2 is now nearly as high as it was at 8pm tonight.

Anyone else not terrified yet?

May 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I wonder whether such a show, if concerned with denial of the holocaust of world war II, would have been conceived?

Impressive. f^-1(Godwin), the inverse Godwin gets a guernsey. Always a debate winner.

May 15, 2012 at 11:22 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

Let's do the checklist:

1. Appeal to authority in the first para - CHECK
2. Complaining about a piece thet haven't bothered to read/see - CHECK
3. Mention that papers have been pal(peer) reviewed - CHECK
4. Mention that no skeptic paper has been pal(peer) reviewed - CHECK
5. Mention of haulocost deniers - CHECK
6. Promotion of own paper - CHECK

This one is "by the book".
May 15, 2012 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


I have spent years reading Bishop Hill, and it never fails to surprise me with its commenters' ability to distill even the strongest climate doomsday arguments to its bare essentials.

May 15, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

PHAROS mentioned Glikson's prior form : Andrew Bolt's Deconstruction of Glikson's 10 Global Myths
Bolt opens : "Dr Andrew Glikson, the Australian National University warming alarmist who likens sceptics to ”parasites”, went through my 10 Global Myths to prove I was wrong, wrong wrong.

It was such a bizarrely weak effort that......"

May 15, 2012 at 11:33 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

May 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM shub
"Shows that there are some who read their geology/climate textbooks as though reading porn."

How very true...

...Nature is full of examples of parasites, viruses destroying their host, sea anemones seducing their prey, but Homo sapiens has perfected untruths to a form of fine art. Defying the scientific method and the peer review system, so-called "sceptics", lured by ego and money, serve as mouthpieces of air-poisoning lobbies, which have already delayed humanity's desperate attempt at mitigating the fast deteriorating state of the atmosphere by more than twenty years.

http://webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/2699

May 15, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

mydog:

'The Conversation' is now cynically censoring anyone who argues that 'the consensus' is fundamentally wrong.

Not much of a 'conversation', then, is it? Hilarious. Perhaps they should rename it 'The Monologue'.

May 15, 2012 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Lucy Skywalker ..I tried your webpage but got this msg : "has been suspended"
Google cached it on May 10th so it must have been OK then

May 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Note the slight-of-hand with the "empirical evidence". he does not say what it is empirical evidence of. There is no empirical evidence that human release of greenhouse gases will cause dangerous warming, but he will do anything to avoid admitting that!

May 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoubting Rich

I think its very likely that the venting by Glikson and Hamilton will only increase the attendance by the typical Aussie. Probably the opposite of what they hoped for. Go Aussie!

May 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin

it is so bizarre, u have to wonder if the letter is real or a fake.
tragically, for science, it is probably the former.

May 15, 2012 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

I wonder what the 'great' scientist would thing of another fictional work, presented to entertain? Im just about to fire up the second seaon of the Walking Dead.

I mean, if Mr Bean has set himself up to be the arbiter of art with a bit of science thrown in, perhaps he can comment on zombies and such?

Then again I wonder of Bean and his ilk would prefer a world where the majority of the vast population is dead and only unthinking, easily amused zombies roam free? I imagine a zombie has a rather limited carbon footprint.

This letter of his is utterly deluded and simply shows him up to be the pompous eco-nazi he truly is.

If this show comes to the UK Im going to go and see it. So long as there are no zombie programs on mind....

May 15, 2012 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Brubaker

The letter is so weak, I think he is trying to con Richard into sending him two complimentary tickets to the play! Richard should tell him to buy his own bl**dy tickets!

May 15, 2012 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Oops, I meant Glikson and not Bean when referring to the scientist chap in my post above....

Well.... Im watching zombies... no wonder my brain doesn't work!

May 15, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Brubaker

Should be in the Australian blogs/papers tomorrow. Have sent this link to Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair

May 15, 2012 at 12:05 PM | Registered CommenterGrantB

And this paleoclimatologist with real world experience where incorrect decisions would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars knows that Mr Glikson is still just opining..

May 15, 2012 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterlittle polyp

http://cass.anu.edu.au/story/cass-researches-contribute-anu-funding

Well he gets his salary payed from somewhere
( Like i said before no Climate Change no Climate Change funding )

May 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

How bizarre. As said above, normally one would wonder if it is a real letter but after following the "death threat" story I can easily believe it is now. It's a whole different ball game in Oz isn't it? Not content with their apparent inordinate influence on policy, scientists also seem to think that the arts world should come under their censorious eye. Is there no end to their talents? ;)

May 15, 2012 at 12:16 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Why did the movie "Cabaret" just come to mind? Haven't there been other occasions in history where the performing arts have been bullied into showing the right thing?

What a smug prig.

May 15, 2012 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert

yeah well....
This kind of reminds me of an interview I saw of a fundamentalist christian decrying the teaching of evolution in schools....If you're that threatened by it...your faith isn't very strong is it?

May 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterpete the geo

Glikson's letter brings to mind the old saying: Thinking is hard -- which is why so few people try it.

And to misquote Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, "There even are places where thinking completely
disappears. In paleoclimatology, they haven't tried it in years!"

May 15, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Martin A (11:37) Glikson commented on this in the article by Andrew Bolt as follows:

This sentence should not be lumped with the preceding sentence (which deals with nature, viruses, sea anemonies etc.). To lump the two sentences changes the individual meaning of each of these sentencesI

As I read this, it means that the great scientist doesn't understand the nature of a paragraph as he doesn't believe two consecutive sentences within the same paragraph should be seen as somehow related to each other by the reader.

What a twerp.

May 15, 2012 at 12:52 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

Dr Glickson’s pornographic musings linked by MartinA are a must-read. His politeness tends to slip from time to time

If the Nazis constructed gas chambers for millions of victims, ongoing climate change threatens to turn the entire planet into an open oven on the strength of a Faustian Bargain. [...] modern societies, underpinned by subterranean drug rings, weapon smuggling networks and intelligence agencies, poison their young's minds with commercial and political lies, a propaganda machine Joseph Goebbels would envy. [...] Homo sapiens has perfected untruths to a form of fine art. Defying the scientific method and the peer review system, so-called "sceptics", lured by ego and money, serve as mouthpieces of air-poisoning lobbies ...
There are quotes from Koestler and Camus to provide existential street cred, but otherwise it is indistinguishable from the manifesto of any other psychotic / climate scientist / environmental journalist.
Richard Bean’s play is very funny, by the way, but not half as weird as Dr Glickson.

May 15, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Where is John Stuart Mill now that we really need him?

Similarly the rant in Forbes the other week, where someone was asking in anguish how we were to stop these denialists publishing all this awful stuff. Got to get back to basic civics. The more people argue and talk, the quicker we get to the truth.

May 15, 2012 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichel

It's time this play went round the provinces so that us non-Metropolitan types could see it for ourselves.

May 15, 2012 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Glickson, Gleick... all settled, quite. These rants are as meaningful as cat-leavings in a litter box. "Paleoclimate" over forty-five years, you say? Anabaptists of Munster would be a better source.

May 15, 2012 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Blake

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