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« Do green claims hold up in court? | Main | Harry Huyton and avian perception »
Thursday
Mar132014

Told you so

When The Conversation started up its UK edition, I pointed out that it was no more than a campaigning rag for superannuated teen-revolutionaries, funded almost entirely by the taxpayer.

By way of proving my point, take a look at today's offering from Lawrence Torcello, a professor of Philosophy at Rochester, in which our learned author cites the fake Gleick Heartland memo without apparently batting an eyelid.

A mistake? Perhaps so, but then take a look at another article today, by Rod Lamberts, the pschologist who runs the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science.

There’s no profit in trying to change the position of deniers. Their values and motivations are fundamentally different to those of us who listen to what the weight of scientific evidence tell us. So forget them.

Forget the Moncktonites, disregard the Boltists, and snub the Abbottsians.

Now I have sat next to Monckton when he has explained that everyone agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. By way of confirmation, here is an article from the Telegraph, which quotes him as follows:

Yes, there is a greenhouse effect. Yes, CO2 contributes to it. Yes, it causes warming. Yes, we emit CO2. Yes, warming will result. But not a lot

So it is fair to say that Mr Lamberts has made up the bit about Moncktonian deniers. It seems that the Australian National University wants science communication to involve misinforming as many people as possible.

As for The Conversation, I rest my case.

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Reader Comments (68)

If we go into a cooling phase for the next 20 years, by Mr. Torcello's logic, we should throw all the IPCC climate scientists in jail for their their ridiculously exaggerated projections which are going to cost in the several trillions before it's over.

I wonder if he would agree to that. To be consistent, he would have to.

I remember being shocked by hearing that the Italian scientists had been charged and convicted. It seemed like madness to me. Mr. Torcello seemed to think it was justice properly administered.

Mar 14, 2014 at 4:14 AM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

@ Richard Drake @ 5:28:

As you know, it has not been defined, and they won't define it, there is no working definition, and the word is effective for them as a propaganda tool because it is so non-specific. Think of it as a metaphor, like calling someone an a--hole. It has no basis in reality and they know it. It's the grown-up equivalent of schoolyard name-calling. They continue to use it because no one reporting what they say or interviewing them has called them on it. It's time someone did. It's an easy thing to do. 'You have called people like Andrew Montford, Steve McIntyre, Richard LIndzen, Judith Curry Bjorn Lonborg "deniers." What do you mean by that? What are they denying?'

Mar 14, 2014 at 4:43 AM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

Perhaps the enormous mass of Magnetite in Western Australia attracts second and third rate American academics like Lewandowsky, Torcello (this lecture is introduced by yet another American) to the University of Western Australia.
It's export to China certainly pays their salaries.

Listen to the ritual acknowledgement of deference to the Nungar People's custodianship of the surrounding "spiritual, cultural values...language,beliefs and knowledge" before Torcello proceeds to the conclusion that ethics demands "pseudoskeptical assertions" be always be countered and "morally condemned"... since they are not supported by "consensus science".

"Free Speech, Public Discourse, and the Moral Blameworthiness of Suffering Fools".
http://prod.lcs.uwa.edu.au:8080/ess/echo/presentation/9b3c06a9-b6d7-4cfe-b22c

-Mind the irony, if you know what I mean.

Mar 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

"It's clear now what "denier" means. If you believe that speculation on what temperatures will be like one hundred years from now is unscientific and virtually useless, you are a "denier.""

I think it boils down to the following?
Traditional/Classic science is "Take nobody's word for it". Critique is expected and wanted.
Policy based and made up science. "Take only our word for it". Critique is prohibited.

Mar 14, 2014 at 5:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

"assuming I want to join the precautionary view on Catastrophic Manmade Climate Change: Does this "scientific consensus" have a recipe on how to combat our CO2 discharge?"

The strange thing about the precautionary principle and how it's used in UNEP and by followers, is that it seemingly only apply, one way, to promote and implement the UNEP and it's followers political actions. It does strangely not apply, two way, to the possible consequences of the UNEP and it's followers political actions.

That's why we get the silly situation, ending up with solutions on the table that doing something is 50 to 100 times more expensive than doing nothing?

Mar 14, 2014 at 5:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

Sweet Old Bob @ Mar 13, 2014 at 1:53 PM "...legal action...pay"

Sadly, there is just so much money to be made only the "uber" fringe might be pruned. Did you lListen to the U.S. Sec. of State claiming we're all gonna die if we don't stomp out CO2? The key is to eliminate the cause of the disease -- for example, Australia is ending the largess. Germany may be doing the same. It's tax money and gov regs that feed this beast and it needs to be starved along with ridiculing it.

Mar 14, 2014 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

WUWT ran across this as well. This academic is not going to be pleased with the results of his display of intolerance and inflammatory deception.
He is not tenured, so cannot protect himself from accountability.
RIT is a conservative school, as schools go, and is focused on engineering and other reality based studies, not liberal arts. Most of the hatred. bigotry, and intolerance in academia this asst. professor displays, comes from the soft studies and liberal arts like philosophy. I find it interesting that he relied on provably untrue claims and statements. I wonder if his employer will also find this of interest.

Mar 14, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

If it helps you relax, here is a comment I posted earlier today Australian time on The Conversation:
Crackpots aside, the main reason for the existence of what are named 'deniers' is their lack of belief in the quality of climate science.
When science proposes that the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause/has caused an increase in global atmospheric temperature, that science would normally be issued with one or more definitive papers that make a quantitative, causative link between the main players, GHG and T.
No such paper exists. People do not say of this topic, "refer to Smith et al 2001" or whomever, as is the practically universal custom in science.
The reason for the lack of Smith et al paper is that the problem is hard.
Because it is hard, it has to be got right. It has to be got right because if it is right, there are consequences to be put in train.
The closest we have come to date is through concepts like Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity and Transient Climate Response. The IPCC lately declined to give more than a broad range of estimates because the uncertainty was so high. Recent work by independent scientist Nic Lewis reported to a 2014 UK House of Commons Inquiry illustrates the uncertainty that is being tackled.
Enthusiastic tackling of uncertainty is not enough. There also has to be good science. Why not visit Climate Audit for a scientific explanation of some of the Nic Lewis concerns about quality of science?
If you are too closed minded to visit CA, simply reflect on this. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures long ago published the necessary and sufficient conditions for the reporting of errors of measurement. The source papers are at http://www.bipm.org/en/publications/guides/gum.html

I've never noticed a reference to this document in a climate change paper. A main criticism I have, as a senior, experienced and successful scientist, is the almost total disregard of the formalism of error analysis, which cannot be forgiven because the treatment of error is so critical to the science of many central features of climate change. Error analysis is like the nose of a good wine, an indicator of desired quality. Some of what I read each day simply smells foul.

I'd say that nobody reading here has ever done a full analysis of the accuracy of a thermometer reading in the 1940s. So fundamental, yet so neglected. If you want to go highbrow, look at the admitted errors of measurement of radiation budgets at Top of Atmosphere. The watt per square metre difference between sensors is larger than the effect being claimed as being of critical importance. The errors are treated, climate change style, by selecting the device that gives the result closest to desired.

And people here want to close off the passage of error information to the decision makers by banning deniers while the ideologues continue to pull wool? Why?

Mar 14, 2014 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

There have been some really valuable comments on this thread. In reverse chronological:

cedarhill:

The key is to eliminate the cause of the disease -- for example, Australia is ending the largess.

Absolutely right. And as the grants are cut off, expect the screams of 'deniers' to reach fever pitch.

Jon:

Traditional/Classic science … Critique is expected and wanted.
Policy based and made up science … Critique is prohibited.

Exactly what 'denier' means. "You have dared to criticise us. Untermensch."

theduke:

It's an easy thing to do. 'You have called people like Andrew Montford, Steve McIntyre, Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Bjorn Lonborg "deniers." What do you mean by that? What are they denying?'

We should definitely get specific, naming names, and asking. But the particular person being asked will probably wriggle and say they haven't called this individual or that a denier (though others have). I have another suggestion. All sceptics adopt the same slogan whenever denier is used:

"We refuse to accept this abuse."

I think it's time to try something different. I still don't object to Roy Spencer's approach. It can be combined with this - though I would always emphasize that we're talking early-stage Nazis. And that's bad enough.

Mar 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

From Lawrence Torcello's piece:

What are we to make of those behind the well documented corporate funding of global warming denial? Those who purposefully strive to make sure “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” is given to the public? I believe we understand them correctly when we know them to be not only corrupt and deceitful, but criminally negligent in their willful disregard for human life. It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems accordingly.

Ironically I think he and Steve McIntyre have a good deal of common ground here: see McIntyre on "full, true and plain disclosure" requirements with legal force. So we should by all means welcome a "conversation" about legal penalties for false disclosure, beginning with those who would be first in line to face legally-enforced dislosure requirements if we transferred the securities-law regime to climate science: IPCC participants and those who publish papers intended for consideration in IPCC. To begin with, how about requiring that a paper can't be considered in future IPCCs unless all its authors first sign an agreement voluntarily subjecting themselves to those requirements?

Mar 14, 2014 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

@Geoff Chambers , yes the censoring of your factual comments also breaks their rules on their charter, in addition to the other breaks I listed here yesterday

Provide a fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias.
.. Since they are publicly funded there must be some way of holding them accountable to their own rules ?

Mar 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Torcello seems to have inspired Lewandowsky, with his Sept 2012, UWA ratalk (linked to earlier)


Lew:
http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/values4stw.htm
"I therefore perceive a moral obligation to conduct research into why people reject well-es
tablished scientific facts, be it climate change or the utility of vaccinations. This is my personal conviction, which other scholars are free to share or disagree with. To illustrate my position, Dr. Lawrence Torcello, a philosopher at the Rochester Institute of Technology, put it succinctly: “… Some issues are of such ethical magnitude that being on the correct side of history becomes a cipher of moral character for generations to come. Global warming is such an issue. History inevitably recognizes the moral astuteness of those loudly intolerant of ignorance and corruption. Those who offer polite hospitality to injustice must learn from history that they are complicit to the harms they enable.‎”

Mar 14, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

theduke:

I remember being shocked by hearing that the Italian scientists had been charged and convicted. It seemed like madness to me. Mr. Torcello seemed to think it was justice properly administered.

If a lawyer or engineer had given similarly reckless professional advice to the residents of L'Aquila they too would likely be in hot water. What makes scientists so special?

Mar 14, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

anonym: science is more theoretical. Engineering is practicable. You can do concrete tests on, say, whether a bridge will stand under applied loads. Geoscience is, like climate science, not reliably predictable, at least not yet. For example, I live in earthquake country. Some geologists believe that a series of small shocks is good news, that it shows the earth is slowly settling and that it reduces the chances of a large quake. It may be that the scientists in Italy were relying on that when they suggested that a large quake was less than imminent. I don't know, I haven't looked at it that closely.

If my doctor fails to predict I develop a cancer, should he be held accountable? The net result of what happened in Italy is that you will have far fewer people wanting to study geoscience in the future if they will be subjected to arrest, conviction and incarceration for failing to predict earthquakes.

Torcello is a fascist. Fascists are always looking for ways to jail people they disagree with. It's no surprise to me that he would latch on to this travesty of justice in Italy to justify his own need to throw people he disagrees with in jail.

Mar 14, 2014 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

Very well said theduke.

Mar 14, 2014 at 5:11 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I am a scientist. I do not swallow the AGW rhetoric. I await the "knock" on the door at 4am.

Mar 15, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterYokel

theduke:

anonym: science is more theoretical. Engineering is practicable.

But this ceases to be the case when you start giving a specific group of people professional advice about whether they should leave their houses. (In fact arguably what the Italian geoscientists were doing in giving advice was actually practising engineering, if you take the theoretical/practicable distinction as the dividing line between science and engineering. But that's beside the main point.)

Geoscience is, like climate science, not reliably predictable, at least not yet.

The problem is that they didn't convey this to the public: instead, apparently, what they conveyed was the opposite (at least once the Defence Minister was finished and they chose to say nothing).

[...] Some geologists believe that a series of small shocks is good news, that it shows the earth is slowly settling and that it reduces the chances of a large quake. It may be that the scientists in Italy were relying on that when they suggested that a large quake was less than imminent. I don't know, I haven't looked at it that closely.

I'm sure they had some kind of reasoning on which they based their argument. Unfortunately it seems it was either a poor theory, or at minimum not sufficiently well founded to justify the confidence they (or the Defence Minister) put in it.

If my doctor fails to predict I develop a cancer, should he be held accountable?

What if you go to the doctor specifically to ask if you have a particular type of cancer, the doctor examines you, then categorically assures you that you do not have that cancer, and then it turns out that actually you do? Especially if there was a treatment decision—surgery, say—which would have been painful and costly but which would have cured the cancer, and which you might well have opted for as a precaution had you not been point-blank assured there was no chance you had the cancer? People would indeed be talking to their lawyers at that point.

The net result of what happened in Italy is that you will have far fewer people wanting to study geoscience in the future if they will be subjected to arrest, conviction and incarceration for failing to predict earthquakes.

We don't absolve engineers or lawyers of their legal responsibilities as professionals because the threat of lawsuits may reduce the number of people who become engineers or lawyers. [lawyer joke goes HERE] Why is the supply of geoscientists so precious that a special exception must be made for them? Especially since, as a geoscientist, you will probably be able to go on being 100% immune to prosecution if you simply steer clear of giving specific policy advice to homeowners and the like.

Torcello is a fascist. Fascists are always looking for ways to jail people they disagree with.

A stopped clock is right twice a day. Just because a fascist is happy to see someone in prison doesn't mean that that person don't belong there. There are many people walking free who belong in prison.

It's no surprise to me that he would latch on to this travesty of justice in Italy to justify his own need to throw people he disagrees with in jail.

What is a travesty is certain scientists and their supporters screaming that when people face vital, real-world decisions with the most serious implications, they must take the course of action indicated by The Science!, and at the same time denying that scientists should ever under any circumstances face a legal responsibility to get The Science right to the best of their ability, and to communicate it fully and honestly to the best of their ability. Because, you know, it was just my opinion, man. You can't try to prevent me from having an opinion! Nonsense. You can have one of the other, not both. Steve McIntyre has said this repeatedly, and every time he has said it the response from commenters at CA, BH and so on has been "yes, oh yes, very true Steve, well said Steve!". Now Torcello takes a similar position and the response is "horrible Torcello, evil fascist, let's get him in trouble with his university". Why?

Mar 16, 2014 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

Michael Mann is highlighting this piece of nonsense on his facebook page. It is astonishing, to me at least, how many of his followers are endorsing Torcello's madness.

Mar 17, 2014 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

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