Home > Environment > Gullible-gate

Gullible-gate

February 19th, 2012

There’s not a lot new to be said about the leak of documents from the Heartland Institute, revealing that the Institute was channeling funds from far-right billionaires and corporations to a large number of self-described sceptics, notably including our own Bob Carter, who’s apparently on a monthly retainer, despite his prior claims of independence. Carter is of course, linked to the IPA, which has a long history of rejecting science for cash, most notably in its decades of work (still continuing) for the tobacco industry.

A few points might be worth restating, though:

* As regards the way in which the documents came into the public domain (still unclear, but Heartland alleges they were tricked into emailing them to the wrong person), Heartland and most of their supporters have shown themselves, unsurprisingly, to be stinking hypocrites. Heartland was among the leaders in publicizing and promoting the use of misleading excerpts from private emails in what they and others called “Climategate”. Now they scream about “stolen” documents, backed up by lots of the usual suspects. There’s an amusing response, with which I agree entirely, from some of the scientists victimised by Heartland and its criminal allies in the past.

* There is no such thing as an honest climate sceptic. Those who reject mainstream science are either conscious frauds or gullible believers. I can confidently predict that of the thousands of “sceptics” who made great play of the CRU email hack, no more than a handful will change their views, either on the substantive issue or on the credibility of people like Carter and institutions like Heartland, over this. Those who aren’t, like Carter, on the payroll are credulous dupes. While many low-information “sceptics” have simply been misled by reading the wrong material on the Internet, or trusting the wrong sources, the great majority of active opponents of climate science are complicit in their own deception, preferring to believe obvious lies because it suits their cultural and political prejudices.

* It may be worth restating the absurdity of the claim that genuine scientists (unlike Carter) are motivated by money. Leaving aside the absurdity of the suggestion that the scientists make their career choice because they were after a highly-paid job, there’s the fact that mainstream climate science has the overwhelming endorsement of scientists in all fields. It’s certainly true that the global warming problem has meant more funding for climate science, but there’s only so much in the budget, and much of this money has come at the expense of other fields which are no longer given priority status.

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. Donald Oats
    February 19th, 2012 at 13:00 | #1

    Climate Scientists are working experts in climate science: ergo, they are the go-to people for understanding climate. It should be so obvious that whatever us outsiders may think—in our ignorance of the subtlies of climate science—that climate scientists and their institutions are the most credible sources of knowledge about climate pertinent to making decisions about human impacts upon climate. The person on the street may think they know more than the scientists; it obviously doesn’t follow that they do know more than the climate scientists. The more the person on the street knows, the better, but unless their day-job is “climate scientist,” their credibility is generally way less than that of climate scientists.

    Even if we think that climate science is too uncertain, too new, too lacking in data, it is still the climate scientists who are best situated to explain the current state of the science, and what is a reasonable interpretation of the data. However much a person might disagree with the interpretations of the data, as provided by climate scientists, it doesn’t change the fact that climate scientists are the most reliable source of climate science. It should be a no-brainer piece of logic, but somehow the conservative right miss it (eg Tea Party followers are overwhelming rejectionists of climate science, but why is that?).

    To push this to the limit: even if the climate scientists are fundamentally wrong about a cherished, well examined/tested theory, they’re still the people who know the most about climate science. It is actually quite rare for a novice or an amateur to overturn an established theory strongly held to be true by the scientists in that field. Strongly held conjectures and hypotheses have been overturned by amateurs; strongly held theories with a vast amount of supporting evidence, not so much.

    To put it another way: even if the climate scientists are in error on a fundamental theory, the person on the street is no better situated than the climate scientists to know what is in error and what is not; in fact, the person on the street is most usually far less likely to be able to beat climate scientists at their own game.

    Why the conservative right cannot accept this, I do not know.

  2. Ikonoclast
    February 19th, 2012 at 16:55 | #2

    JQ does not mince words. “There is no such thing as an honest climate sceptic…. the great majority of active opponents of climate science are complicit in their own deception, preferring to believe obvious lies because it suits their cultural and political prejudices.”

    Bravo! Merited criticism. Climate sceptics (if they are adults of at least average intelligence or better) are either liars or dupes. We would say the same of any one who sold or bought snake oil.

    Mind you, our society has failed to educate the bulk of the populace so that they have some basic scientific literacy. That failure plays a role too. In addition, some simple introductory philosophy centred around the very basics of understanding empiricism and epistemology should be part of all Grade 11 and Grade 12 education.

    “Epistemology from Greek ἐπιστήμη (epistēmē), meaning “knowledge, science”, and λόγος (logos), meaning “study of”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge.[1][2] It addresses the questions:

    What is knowledge?
    How is knowledge acquired?
    To what extent is it possible for a given subject or entity to be known?
    How do we know what we know?

    Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification. Another perennial concern of the field is the possibility that there is very little or no knowledge at all—skepticism. The field is sometimes referred to as the theory of knowledge.” – Wikipedia.

    Of course, there is a great difference between justifiable scepticism and obtuse, denialist scepticism.

  3. February 19th, 2012 at 17:00 | #3

    I think this is interesting:

    “I can confidently predict that of the thousands of “sceptics” who made great play of the CRU email hack, no more than a handful will change their views, either on the substantive issue or on the credibility of people like Carter and institutions like Heartland, over this.”

    One of the documents mentions mobilizing supporters to comment on blogs and in letters to media. In other words, they have an army of “trolls” and probably use “persona management” (ie: sophisticated trolls) to make the perception of a lot of noise. Like all devious propaganda techniques the purpose is to create the illusion of a crowd with the purpose of attracting “real” people to join this illusory crowd.

    I believe that they are actually terrified of “real” people working out that there is no crowd and that is why they put so much effort into getting media space to which they have no right (eg: IPA on the ABC and in Fairfax: on any given topic they are disproportionately chosen to comment over impartial, honest and genuine experts).

    Of course nobody is going to read any of their favourite trolls from around the web changing their mind on ANY topic let alone the evidence about Heartland’s tactics and agenda. But it isn’t the trolls they are worried about it’s real people. That’s why I whinge so long and loud about our woeful media and disgraceful journalism, it is so important in informing real people that it must be kept to some standard – much higher than it is now!

    Ben Cubby has done some good stuff in the SMH on this story.

  4. drpage
    February 19th, 2012 at 17:45 | #4

    Well done. A long post on this issue without mentioning that one of the documents were faked.

    I can think for myself John. The dismissive arrogance with which “skeptics” are dismissed does no favours to the cause of “warmists”.

    You don’t have to believe that scientists are only motivated by money to believe that they can be led astray by groupthink. It’s a pretty natural human phenomena and scientists aren’t immune to our foibles. Dismissing those who disagree with you as “not honest” simply confirms that diagnosis.

  5. drpage
    February 19th, 2012 at 17:46 | #5

    Megan, that is standard operating procedure for Green groups! I think you might be a little naive.

  6. John Quiggin
    February 19th, 2012 at 18:06 | #6

    @drpage
    The unproven claim that one of the documents was faked appears entirely beside the point (since no factual claim based on the document in question has been denied), but of course typical of the desperation tactics of the delusionists. Your posts makes it clear that your capacity to “think for yourself” amounts to a willingness to deceive yourself in order to maintain a view of the world consistent with your own cultural prejudices. Dismissal is the only justifiable response to such wilful stupidity.

  7. Ikonoclast
    February 19th, 2012 at 18:51 | #7

    Sorry drpage but you are the naive one.

    You mention scientists being led astray by groupthink. Scientists practice the disciplines of empirical observation and research, cross-checking of data, verification of results and repeatable verifiable experiments backed by methods of quantification and probability assessment in mathematics, all said disciplines being developed by hundreds of years of intellectual work since the beginning of the scientific and mathematical revolutions. On the other hand, amateur “sceptics”, usually with no scientific or mathematical training, follow no discipline or method at all, share unsubstantiated prejudice and opinion with like-minded unobjective people and listen to ideologically driven “think-tanks” funded by corporate money and with a proven track record of issuing falsehoods and propaganda (about tobacco for instance). Really, which group do you think are more likely to be lead astray by groupthink?

    Scientists can make mistakes. These are corrected by further scientific work by themselves or by others following the scientific method. Amateur “sceptics” make howling mistakes, have no formal discipline by which to rectify their mistakes and then simply entrench themselves in their mistakes by denialist thinking (in its broadest sense which means denial of empirical and objectively verified evidence).

    I can much better say that the dismissive arrogance with which 1,000s of PhD scientists, hundreds of university schools of science and a whole body of modern science itself (drawing on the established fields of physics, chemistry and mathematics) are dismissed by people with no qualifications in the relevant fields and usually no qualifications at all in science, philosophy or logic does no favours to the cause of “sceptics”.

    A “sceptic” of this ilk pretending he can educate us about climate science is about as convincing as Charlie Chaplin’s tramp claiming he can perform brain surgery.

  8. February 19th, 2012 at 19:22 | #8

    I could be mistaken, but having periodically stopped by this blog for many years, I don’t recall ever seeing “drpage” here before.

  9. Fran Barlow
    February 19th, 2012 at 19:22 | #9

    @drpage

    The dismissive arrogance with which “skeptics” are dismissed does no favours to the cause of “warmists”.

    Tone troll. Those of us who support evidence-based policy do not give a fig whether those who want policy to be based on ignorant angst or the convenience of the privileged see us as polite. Your kind are not merely wrong on the science but enemies of human wellbeing. Dismissing you with a wave of the hand and a derisive snort is entirely apt.

    You do not “think for yourself”. You borrow the stupidity or deceit of others and call it your own conception. Why you do that is entirely a matter for you.

    {groupthink} a pretty natural human phenomena (sic)

    Strawman. Multiple lines of independent data corroborate the key theories underpinning the industrial era climate anomaly. No other excluding body of theory predicts the data. “Groupthink” has nothing to do with it.

    No serious scientist could examine that data and attribute it to “groupthink”.

    For the record, the conception, “Groupthink” is itself of very dubious standing — and quite possibly unfalsifiable. Not the least of the things genuine sceptics might do is to question whether it exists at all and if it does, how it might be falsified. That those self-describing as “climate sceptics” have appropriated this concept utterly uncritically attests to their credulity when their culture demands it. Indeed, if they do believe in “groupthink” they might apply Irving Janis’s tests to their own behaviour in relation to mainstream science and public policy. I suspect they might well go close to meeting Janis’s tests.

  10. John Quiggin
    February 19th, 2012 at 19:50 | #10

    @Megan
    AFAIK, drpage is either a new visitor , a “lurker” whohasn’t previously felt the need to comment but is hooked into the delusionist talking point network, or a regular troll using a sockpuppet. As this post hasn’t yet shown up on Google blog search, at least for me, I think “new visitor” is least likely.

  11. iain
    February 19th, 2012 at 20:17 | #11

    waiting for terje to pop up re : point 1

  12. John Quiggin
    February 19th, 2012 at 20:23 | #12

    @iain
    Indeed, I was tempted to call him out on this

  13. Ken Miles
    February 19th, 2012 at 20:45 | #13

    There is no such thing as an honest climate sceptic. Those who reject mainstream science are either conscious frauds or gullible believers.

    Amen. I can’t see how somebody can be a climate skeptic and not be some combination a) delusional b) a liar and/or c) ignorant.

    An amusing example is this is at Open Mind. A skeptic presents evidence for decreased droughts. It turns out that he (+ the skeptic site that he copied it from) was literally 180 degrees wrong. And then suddenly the graph doesn’t matter.

  14. February 19th, 2012 at 20:53 | #14

    Even though these days the usual approach is “DNFTT” (Do Not Feed The Troll), I always prefer Edward Gibbon’s wisdom:

    “I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinion I have no respect.”

    Nobody has ever learned anything useful through an argument on a blog with a troll, other than perhaps the rhetorical wonder of the “Gish-Gallop” and how pointless it is to civil and reasoned debate.

  15. Alister
    February 19th, 2012 at 21:29 | #15

    “drpage” posts at Ricardian Ambivalence. The most recent post I’ve seen there was a piece of egregious stupidity regarding Alcoa’s possible shutdown, blaming it on the yet-to-be-implemented carbon tax, as opposed to the combination of Alcoa’s ineptitude and the exchange rate.

  16. TerjeP
    February 19th, 2012 at 21:42 | #16

    John Quiggin :
    @iain
    Indeed, I was tempted to call him out on this

    I posted a reply. I assume it is in moderation. If not I can repost.

  17. Donald Oats
    February 19th, 2012 at 22:14 | #17

    As I’ve already said: it is possible that the climate scientists have it wrong, but how is someone such as drpage going to figure it out before the climate scientists do? Unless [s]he is a climate scientist, it isn’t real likely. Next, we’ll be hearing about how the Moon landing was faked by money-hungry NASA scientists…

  18. rog
    February 19th, 2012 at 22:23 | #18

    “drpage” reminds me of doctors within my social circle, rigorous about medical scientific evidence and peer review yet dismissive of the evidence of climate change.

  19. February 19th, 2012 at 23:41 | #19

    @Alister

    So ‘troll’ is the most likely answer.

  20. John Quiggin
    February 20th, 2012 at 07:20 | #20

    Terje, your reply appears to have been lost

  21. Ikonoclast
    February 20th, 2012 at 07:28 | #21

    It is very clear that Heartland Institute has been given enough rope and has hung itself.

    http://www.desmogblog.com/heartland-confirms-it-mistakenly-emailed-internal-documents

  22. Happy Heyoka
    February 20th, 2012 at 08:40 | #22

    Those who aren’t, like Carter, on the payroll are credulous dupes.

    I have been guilty of overestimating people before, but I’ll add one more: Cowardice.

    I’ve seen a lot of smart people dither even when the evidence is in front of them… “well, maybe it’s warming”, “perhaps we’re contributing to it”. I’m sure these people change opinions depending on which dinner (or boardroom) table they’re at.

    It’s these people that the Heartland Institutes of the world need to keep spinning their wheels – another year another dollar saved on mitigation efforts.
    “penny wise and pound foolish” as my grandmother would have said.

  23. Freelander
    February 20th, 2012 at 08:57 | #23

    When you’re young, and read history, you wonder how people can be so dumb. When you’re older, you realise stupidity is not confined to the past. Climate change will be only the last saga of stupidity if it manages to finish us off. Whether it doesn’t might only be a matter of luck.

    Heartland and associated ‘clever’ ‘individuals’ ‘who think for themselves’ must already have cost lives. Lets hope those who eventually pick up torches and pitchforks have their addresses.

  24. Tom
    February 20th, 2012 at 10:29 | #24

    @Ikonoclast #2

    In my opinion knowledge certainly is important but not the most important thing the education system should concern. In fact in the recent decades, the education system of the world has focused so much on knowledge (right or wrong) they have ignore (intentionally?) the need of logical and critical thinking of the students.

    Why I think the education system might have done that intentionally in the above paragraph is the manipulation of human brain exercise. When people use so much of their brain for remembering exercise they will have less tendency in their free time to do critical thinking or researches because they feel tireness. Overtime people will just believe in everything they are told by “general authoritive figures” or the media. At least I found this pattern happens on almost if not all asian overseas students that lived in their country for their high school education period that pressures them to wakeup at 6am finish at 5pm and attend tutoring until 8pm and finish homework at 10 and sleep for 6 days a week.

    When I saw the public’s response to the poker reform I’m already hugely disappointed by the general public of Australia to think logically. They believe the statement “it will not work” when club spent millions to advertise against the reform; they believe it will cause doom to the economy when they ignore people can spend money elsewhere. If I take into the fact that the percentage of the population who supported the proposed reform unaffected by information because of hate of poker machine, then there seriously aren’t much who actually thinks deeply into matters that affects the environment surrounding them (economically or ecologically).

  25. TerjeP
    February 20th, 2012 at 10:50 | #25

    John Quiggin :
    Terje, your reply appears to have been lost

    No problem, I’ll say it again.

    It is not entirely clear how the CRU emails or the Heartland documents came to be in the public domain. It seems reasonably likely in both cases that theft was involved. In both cases if the thief can be found I have no objection to legal action being taken against them. However in both cases I now regard the documents as public domain. I think we should be feel free to discuss and debate their substance.

    There may be some hypocrites out there in this regard. Those that think that the CRU documents were fair game for discussion but who think that the Heartland documents should not be discussed or circulated because they are stolen property. If so then it should be a simple matter to name and shame them. I won’t stop you. However individuals simply claiming that the Heartland documents were stolen isn’t in and of itself hypocritical. They probably were stolen or else obtained using deception. Just as the CRU climategate emails were probably stolen.

    Iain – I hope that satisfies your curiosity regarding my opinion on this matter.

  26. Socrates
    February 20th, 2012 at 11:30 | #26

    As an outsider, I would add one criticism of academia in cases like Carter. These days the only form of academic misconduct that seems to get punished is criticising the management. Surely if “Prof” Carter has secretly taken a retainer to promote unscientific views then “his” university, James Cook, should dismiss him or prohibit him from claiming any association?

  27. Jim Birch
    February 20th, 2012 at 12:25 | #27

    I’m not sure that taking a retainer is academic misconduct but I’m pretty clear that failure to disclose is, or, if not, it really should be. Personally, I’d be very happy for failure to disclose to be criminalised for anyone attempting to influence public opinion. It’s intensely corrupting to public discourse, which is necessarily based on trust.

  28. Fran Barlow
    February 20th, 2012 at 12:39 | #28

    @TerjeP

    It seems reasonably likely in both cases that theft was involved.

    In the case of Heartland, it seems not. They admitted to mistakenly emailing the documents.

    The other difference between the CRU case and Heartland is that in the latter case there is a bona fide public interest involved — whereas examination of the CRU documents showed there wasn’t. They were merely some emails showing that scientists don’t like being trolled and abused.

    It is hypocritical of course for Heartland to cry foul, having made such a song and dance about the CRU hack and its value to the denier cause. What’s sauce for the goose and all that …

  29. Dan
    February 20th, 2012 at 12:45 | #29

    Jim, it’s pretty easy: anyone taking a vocal and public position on anything – especially when the position is patently horsesh*t and potentially extremely deleterious as in the case of climate change denial – is probably being paid to do so.

    It makes sense – who’s going to be held to be a dangerously idiotic clown unless they’re making a buck in the process?

    Remember all the ‘scientific research casting doubt’ on the links between smoking and cancer? Guess who bankrolled that ‘research’? (Incidentally, a lot of the same groups and individuals are involved in the current confected controversy about climate change.)

    I think just a basic citizen awareness of the fact that people are paid to run lines should suffice.

  30. rog
    February 20th, 2012 at 12:50 | #30

    Terje equates CRU with Heartland – a fail on many counts.

    The free market Heartland is now threatening legal action against those that publish those same documents

    “We realize this will be portrayed by some as a heavy-handed threat to free speech,” announced Heartland president Joseph L Bast in a press release. “But the First Amendment doesn’t protect Internet fraud, and there is no right to defamatory speech.”

  31. Dan
    February 20th, 2012 at 12:51 | #31

    Not to put too fine a point on it, the world would be a better place if institutions like Heartland didn’t exist. They are irredeemably dishonest shills who would sacrifice their grandchildren’s planet to make a buck in the here and now.

    The fact is, of course, that they do exist. So I guess it’s good that things like this happen from time to time to remind everyone that they have no scruples, no principles, and no claim to call anyone else out on right conduct.

    As Animal Kingdom put it, crooks always come undone.

  32. John Quiggin
    February 20th, 2012 at 12:52 | #32

    Carter’s adjunct position at JCU is a very marginal affiliation. He was being pushed out when I was there fifteen years ago – that was before he emerged as a delusionist.

  33. Socrates
    February 20th, 2012 at 13:11 | #33

    JQ

    Thanks re JCU and Carter. Even so I wish any credible university would sever links with such people. They do great harm to the university’s reputation as well. Here in Adelaide it frustrates me that the management has done nothing to Ian Plimer.

  34. Troy Prideaux
    February 20th, 2012 at 13:31 | #34
  35. Hector
    February 20th, 2012 at 14:41 | #35

    I’m personally shocked and surprised that the Australian has omitted to report on the story about Bob Carter.

  36. rog
    February 20th, 2012 at 14:50 | #36

    Things are really hotting up, apparently you can be sued for even commenting on Heartland docs

    the individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages

  37. John Quiggin
    February 20th, 2012 at 14:56 | #37

    @Terje I’ve already named the hypocrites, starting most obviously with Heartland. What people are interested in, I think, is whether you are willing to shame them. I’m betting not, but I’d be happy for you to prove me wrong.

  38. rog
    February 20th, 2012 at 14:58 | #38

    According to @crikey_news NYT to publish the name of the $13.7M donor tomorrow.

  39. John Quiggin
    February 20th, 2012 at 14:59 | #39

    To spell it the charge of hypocrisy in painful detail, Heartland made free use of stolen documents in the CRU case, and now threatens to sue anyone who refers to (allegedly) stolen Heartland docs

  40. February 20th, 2012 at 15:00 | #40

    Perhaps we have always lived in “communication” silos. Our ability to self select news and information, not just in the way that information in itself but the way it is framed.

    I thought this video- Climate Change Communication: Focusing on Public Engagement – in the NOAA series is at least informative. Interestingly if American research is a guide the public is not divided into “alarmists” and “deniers”, but spread across a six group audience segmentation.

    I notice the comment about scientific consensus as a form of group think. On a practical level consensus is very useful for scientific research. I assume that credible research should have integrity and ask open-ended questions. For example, there is not a very high level of scientific literacy to appreciate that the troposphere – the atmosphere’s living space – is warming while the layer above it, the stratosphere, is not warming, is a big deal.

  41. Tom
    February 20th, 2012 at 15:05 | #41

    @rog

    Should Heartland succeed in pursuing legal actions; Kevin Rudd can go and sue every single media company in Australia for reporting on possible come back of Kevin Rudd because they used so called “evidence” without his approval

  42. rog
    February 20th, 2012 at 15:34 | #42

    There is an amusing piece by retired Colonel Tom Walmsley,

    http://t.co/SziaDhPG

  43. Mel
    February 20th, 2012 at 15:50 | #43

    Actually, John, I think it is has been pretty well established by various studies the greater scientific knowledge and numeracy skills are positively associated with a denialist position on climate change. See for example Kahan’s study, which had an impressive n=1540.

    It’s all very well to carry on about everyone telling lies but to do so means ignoring the power of a strongly held ideology to skew one’s vision. To give another example, when I was a member of the Greens I met several otherwise well educated and intelligent people who thought vaccines and fluoridated water were wicked corporate state conspiracies. Such is the power of ideology to trump reason.

    I also think it is silly to claim AGW is a rolled in gold, immutable !!!FACT!!!. Surely it would be more sensible to view action on AGW as a prudent insurance policy given the current weight of scientific opinion and to not go beyond that.

  44. Dan
    February 20th, 2012 at 16:10 | #44

    *facepalm*

  45. John Quiggin
    February 20th, 2012 at 16:24 | #45

    Mel, it’s well established that the more educated *Republicans* are, the more strongly they hold stupid and false beliefs, and the more confidently they assert them.
    http://desmogblog.com/little-knowledge-why-biggest-problem-climate-skeptics-may-be-their-confidence
    This is indeed an example of “the power of a strongly held ideology to skew ones vision.

    The second part of your comment is a silly exercise in false equivalence. False beliefs about vaccination and fluoridation aren’t part of the policy position of major leftwing parties and are in fact more common on the right – Michelle Bachmann being the obvious example

    The third part (including the AGW acronym) reads like a standard piece of delusionist rhetoric. The IPCC gives probability ranges for the fact of warming (95 per cent IIRC), and the primary role of humans in causing it (more than 90 per cent). That’s not an all-caps “FACT”, but it’s a lot more certainty than we have about most of the issues on which we have to make policy decisions. If all you meant to say was “AGW is not absolutely certain, but it would be stupid to make the long-odds bet that it will go away, and especially to pay any attention to the liars and fools making this claim”, then i have no problem.

  46. rog
    February 20th, 2012 at 16:26 | #46

    Mel is arguing against some guy he met in the pub, nobody in authority has said AGW is solid rolled in gold etc.

  47. TerjeP
    February 20th, 2012 at 17:33 | #47

    John Quiggin :
    To spell it the charge of hypocrisy in painful detail, Heartland made free use of stolen documents in the CRU case, and now threatens to sue anyone who refers to (allegedly) stolen Heartland docs

    Yes on those terms there does seem to be a significant element of hypocrisy. I doubt their legal threats will ultimately achieve much but it is a case of do what I say not what I do. What form would you like their shaming to take? Should I wave my fist?

  48. TerjeP
    February 20th, 2012 at 17:45 | #48

    In the case of Heartland, it seems not. They admitted to mistakenly emailing the documents.

    They were tricked into sending the email and tricked out of the documents. If somebody tricked your grandmother out of her life savings most people would say her life savings were stolen. It’s a bit like how you keep telling me the PM didn’t break a promise in regard to the carbon tax. It goes beyond mere pedantry to a form of wilful blindness. However it’s a semantic point you make and if the word “stolen” doesn’t work for you then fine.

    As for the public interest comment I’ll just have a quite little chuckle.

  49. February 20th, 2012 at 17:52 | #49

    I’ve got a wonderful idea: let’s contact Heartland and ask them much they charge to change their minds on climate change. A win/win situation, as they say.

    We could collect some money or something.

  50. Dan
    February 20th, 2012 at 18:03 | #50

    Re: stolen documents, I keep coming back to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk4Ntcq5uNg

    @Magpie – I think it’s one of those things where if you need to ask, you can’t afford it.

  51. rog
    February 20th, 2012 at 18:47 | #51

    Now Terje is equating Heartland with someone’s grandmother. No, hang on, it’s your grandmother.

    Too silly for further comment.

  52. Mel
    February 20th, 2012 at 19:40 | #52

    JQ:

    “The third part (including the AGW acronym) reads like a standard piece of delusionist rhetoric.”

    What the heck? “AGW” is a neutral term and used by all sides. I also clearly state that action on AGW is indicated and I have done so since 2006 when I first commented on this blog. To not act on AGW would be reckless and stupid.

    “False beliefs about vaccination and fluoridation aren’t part of the policy position of major leftwing parties … ”

    This claim is misleading. In Oz fluoridation of water supplies is a state issue and the state Greens parties take a variety of positions on the subject. The Victorian Greens policy for example is to leave it to local communities to decide if they want fluoridation and various country branches have indeed opposedfluoridation, for example in Ballarat and Warrnambool. Gillian Blair is a prominent anti-fluoride campaigner and convenor of the Victorian Greens Wholistic Health Working Group.

    Sadly, some Greens parties in other countries, for instance the Greens in the UK, totally oppose water fluoridation.

    Nonetheless, it is true that historically it has been the nutty right more than the nutty left that has opposed water fluoridation and vaccines.

  53. February 20th, 2012 at 20:30 | #53

    This is ‘on topic’ because Mel raised it in the context of denialism generally:

    Fluoride is one of those issues that can only go against Bligh.

    The case was never made, there was no “mandate”, consultation was non-existent, it cost at least $35M (Gov figures) to set up, like Traveston we were simply told “the deal is done” and no doubt the LNP would have done precisely the same thing. In all the circumstances, and given the real scientific debate around Fluoridation’s pros and cons, the POLITICAL handling of the issue was arrogant and undemocratic.

    Leaving aside all the reasonable arguments, as well as the outright loopy, for and against (eg: if it’s so important, why not have free fluoride drops for those who want them – along with one of those “awareness” campaigns our politicians love so much?)- the people of Qld had it imposed on them by a unicameral government operating in a mono-media State.

    As with climate denial, this type of “governance” or “leadership” does none of us any good.

  54. John Quiggin
    February 20th, 2012 at 20:48 | #54

    @Mel, I bow to your encyclopedic knowledge of Green policy, but would reassert that a couple of local branches of the Green party opposing fluoridation isn’t remotely comparable to the US Republican party opposing climate science. Similarly I wouldn’t class the English Greens (1 per cent of the vote)

    @Megan Granted that a unicameral government in a mono-media state is not very satisfactory, I don’t see that the fluoridation decision is any less democratic than other policy decisions made by the government without a prior election commitment, of which there are many examples. It’s not like privatisation where the government clearly promised not to do it, and the party had a policy to that effect. And of course, people had a chance to vote against the government in 2009, and can vote for the Australian Party now if they want to.

  55. Mel
    February 20th, 2012 at 22:01 | #55

    John:

    According to wiki, the Greens Party of England got 8.7% of the vote in the last European Parliament elections. They also have 136 local councillors and one House of Commons seat.

    The Greens Party in NZ has a similar policy to the Vic Greens, has numerous anti-fluoride nutters in the ranks and got 11% of the vote in the last NZ elections.

    I think Megan is a perfect exemplar of the new class of leftists that have doubts or even a vehement opposition to vaccines and/or fluoride. If you have not noticed this problem it is because you haven’t been looking (or hung out with enough self-described greens).

    BTW, I still consider myself a Greenie and acknowledge that many fellow Greenies are intelligent and scientifically literate folk.

  56. Dan
    February 20th, 2012 at 22:10 | #56

    Not concerns I’ve ever heard expressed by anyone regardless of political stripe, except by proxy in the context of Northern NSW and the pockets of anti-vaccination superstition there.

  57. Mel
    February 20th, 2012 at 22:35 | #57

    Dan,

    I live on an acreage just outside a town with a sizeable arts and alternative lifestyle community in central Victoria. Anti-Vac and anti-fluoride sentiments are not uncommon here.

  58. Happy Heyoka
    February 20th, 2012 at 23:09 | #58

    @Freelander

    Heartland and associated [...] Lets hope those who eventually pick up torches and pitchforks have their addresses.

    In my darker moments, I expect the pitchforks to be pointed the other way : “why didn’t you warn us earlier…”

    @wmmbb

    Interestingly if American research is a guide the public is not divided into “alarmists” and “deniers”, but spread across a six group audience segmentation..

    I just dl’ed and skimmed it, but it looks really interesting, and certainly couched in more diplomatic language than I would use :-)

    @Mel

    outside a town with a sizeable arts and alternative lifestyle community in central Victoria

    I’m guessing that would be between Bendigo and Ballarat? You may well be describing some friends of mine.

    As someone of with an unashamed concern for ecology and a math/science background, I think it’s really important when you encounter these people to get them to reconsider the depth of their commitment to the wackier ideas (eg: homeopathy)

    I suspect the mindset of anti-vaxers and AGW deniers has some similarity – people who don’t have time or horsepower enough to do the independent study should be encouraged to understand that there’s no shame in admitting not understanding and therefore holding no opinion. If the opinion they hold is demonstrably wrong, then they should be planed for it – politely if they’re friends.

  59. February 21st, 2012 at 00:23 | #59

    Mel:

    “I think Megan is a perfect exemplar of the new class of leftists…”

    “Up Yours, fascist!”

    Would that be a bit more in keeping with your projections?

    Now, got anything more than frippery to back up your assertion? If you want to trade insults we could be here for a very long time and you would end up on your arse.

  60. Mel
    February 21st, 2012 at 01:08 | #60

    Happy Heyoka:

    “I’m guessing that would be between Bendigo and Ballarat? You may well be describing some friends of mine.”

    You got it!

    “As someone of with an unashamed concern for ecology and a math/science background, I think it’s really important when you encounter these people to get them to reconsider the depth of their commitment to the wackier ideas (eg: homeopathy)”

    I’ve always found this to be a waste of time and I don’t have the patience.

    Megan:

    “Now, got anything more than frippery to back up your assertion? If you want to trade insults we could be here for a very long time and you would end up on your arse.”

    I had a squiz at your blog and amongst the dribble I found nonsense like this:

    “Premier Bligh, forced mass medication [water fluoridation] is against the Nuremberg Code and against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When did Queensland become Nazi Germany and you become Dictator Bligh?”

    Umm, Nazi? Nuremberg Code? Dictator Bligh? You sound about as sane and rational as “Lord” Monckton after a delinquent night with a bottle of cheap Absinthe and a couple of dancing ferrets.

  61. John Quiggin
    February 21st, 2012 at 06:37 | #61

    Please no flame wars between commenters. Mel, if you have a problem with Megan’s blog, take it there. Megan, you’re close to a Godwin violation.

  62. Sancho
    February 21st, 2012 at 10:00 | #62

    Oddly, the only anti-vaxer I’ve met is an opthalmic surgeon. He’s not strident about it, but he hums and haws about, you know, well, those kids DO seem get autism after their vaccinations…

  63. Dan
    February 21st, 2012 at 10:12 | #63

    And again we come back to what the expert consensus says. It’s possible that some dreadlocked homeopath in the Lismore hinterlands might be on to something, but exceedingly unlikely.

    The actual story itself is decidedly shady and, ultimately, tragic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy

  64. Troy Prideaux
    February 21st, 2012 at 10:13 | #64

    @Sancho
    As it happens, last night my wife was telling me about this very thing happening to her colleague’s son quite recently. I have no opinion on it, and never really thought to question it until now.

  65. Troy Prideaux
    February 21st, 2012 at 10:28 | #65

    Qualification to my post: The son experienced significant speech and some behavioral issues since receiving the vaccine, but that’s not to say it is a form of autism.

  66. February 21st, 2012 at 11:13 | #66

    It’s only fair that I point out that I did NOT write the text selectively quoted above.

    As is explicitly clear at the end of that piece, it is a copy of a letter to MPs from an ‘anti-fluoride’ campaigner. Honesty in these discussions is important.

  67. Sancho
    February 21st, 2012 at 13:56 | #67

    I’m by no means an expert, Troy, but my understanding is that disorders like autism and ADD first manifest around the same age vaccinations are due.

    There’s a lot of research about the (lack of) correlation, but it’s amazing how much stories about wive’s colleague’s children can grow in the telling.

  68. Freelander
    February 21st, 2012 at 14:21 | #68

    I am by no means an expert, Sancho, but my understanding is that the disorders first manifest themselves sometime after the child’s second or third birthday party? Any correlation? Not sure. But surely an area for research when the solution could be so simple.

  69. rog
    February 21st, 2012 at 14:37 | #69

    The admission by Peter Gleick that he used deception to obtain Heartland docs has been a win for Heartland, at this point in time.

  70. Sancho
    February 21st, 2012 at 14:46 | #70

    Interesting choice for Gleick. He may be disclosing his role as a way of de-fanging any future outing of him as the source.

    Obviously, the denial industry will spend the next couple of weeks shouting about the awful dishonesty of his methods, but when that’s over the documents will still probably be genuine and they’ll have to explain why the CRU email thieves were never identified.

  71. rog
    February 21st, 2012 at 17:23 | #71

    Heartland did say that one of the docs was a fake, now they can prove it?

  72. Dan
    February 21st, 2012 at 17:48 | #72

    Isn’t it neither here nor there whether the document was original or not? Surely the more pertinent issue is whether its content is true. Heartland haven’t disputed any of that, by the by.

  73. Mel
    February 21st, 2012 at 18:02 | #73

    Freelander:

    “But surely an area for research when the solution could be so simple.”

    Would you mind elaborating?

  74. Mel
    February 21st, 2012 at 18:15 | #74

    I have no problem with an investigative journalist or a hacker making public confidential documents from the major denialist outfits but in this case we have an own goal because there is nothing interesting in the Heartland documents. Bob Carter’s pin money retainer is hardly a game changer, nor is anonymous donations given that the annual budget of Heartland is miniscule compared to the money floating around in environment organisations like Greenpeace and the mainstream science. Hopefully someone with more smarts than Gleick will produce a real smoking gun.

  75. rog
    February 21st, 2012 at 20:29 | #75

    I think it boils down to exposing the backers and having them cease funding to avoid publicity.

  76. Sancho
    February 21st, 2012 at 21:01 | #76

    I reckon there’s a bit more to it than that, Mel.

    Greenpeace, the example you used, is transparent about its funding, doesn’t accept money from “companies, governments or political parties”, and gets a large amount of its budget from public donations, which it secures by explaining its goals and asking people to support it on principle.

    I’m sure I don’t need to explain how that’s pretty much the opposite of how Heartland operates.

    The other assumption implicit in the cynicism is that people who admired the Heartland Institute previously won’t care about the leaked documents, and most of them probably won’t.

    A minority, however, may have the wool lifted from their eyes. It’s impossible to overstate the extent to which right-wing politics thrives on fear and uncertainty, and Heartland’s role is to pretend that everything’s okay with the environment, and all you need to do is vote conservative to make the scary scientists go away.

    Some of the people who take comfort in Heartland’s “product” may now be more skeptical of the think tank’s statements.

  77. Mel
    February 21st, 2012 at 22:19 | #77

    Well, no, Sancho, I think you’ll find nothing would change if Heartland shut up shop tomorrow. Conservative populists like Andrew Bolt in Oz and James Delingpole in the UK are much more important. If these types of characters came out and said “oops, I was wrong about climate change” we’d have a whole new ball game.

  78. TerjeP
    February 21st, 2012 at 22:43 | #78

    In his admission Gleick says:-

    I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials; others have and are doing so. I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

    I’m not sure why it is a sin to be well funded and coordinate but there you go. Of more amusement is the suggestion that we desperately need a debate.

  79. February 22nd, 2012 at 00:33 | #79

    Terje:

    The suggestion in the quote is not, as you put it: “that we desperately need a debate”.

    It is that a “rational public debate is desperately needed”.

    Two entirely different things.

    Mel:

    The key difference in this is Heartland’s dishonest misrepresentation of what others have written (you did see, in your research, that I didn’t write the material you attempted to attribute to me didn’t you? If not, you are sloppy. If so, you are dishonest).

    Their role in the spurious “climategate” email charade contrasts poorly with their, now revealed, program of deception and ‘trolling’ on a range of topics, most interestingly climate change.

    To spell it out: They accuse others of lying about climate change. They lie about climate change.

  80. rog
    February 22nd, 2012 at 06:52 | #80

    Terje omits “rational” from the debate but there you go.

  81. Dan
    February 22nd, 2012 at 08:33 | #81

    @Mel

    Heartland and its ilk, by astroturfing a controversy in the scientific community, provide intellectual cover to people like Bolt (and people who like Bolt).

    That intellectual cover disappears, they lose a whole lot of legitimacy and find it harder to make their case.

  82. Troy Prideaux
    February 22nd, 2012 at 09:03 | #82

    @Dan
    I’m not quite so confident they would. Bolt always resorts back to the Barnaby Joyce argument about the trivial influence Australia has on Global emissions and that appears to resonate well with his viewers whether it’s correct or not. Let’s also not underestimate where the real power is – Murdoch! Rupert and his even more right wing son Lachlan.

  83. TerjeP
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:08 | #83

    rog :
    Terje omits “rational” from the debate but there you go.

    Sure let’s be rational. Let’s go around saying it may never rain again and the sky is falling. Let’s put people on the public payroll to say this sort of “rational” stuff. Let’s doll out taxpayer cash to “brilliant” green ventures that pay penance for our guilt. Well this nonsense is “rational” to some people.

    Maybe the time for debate is over. Maybe it is time to simply stand back and let the public backlash against leftist wet dreams simply run it’s course. After all why let reason get in the way of a worthy cause? The left seems untroubled by reason or restraint.

  84. Dan
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:11 | #84

    Hey Terje, did you ever apologise or ‘fess up when you got taken to the cleaners by JQ last time you talked climate change here? As I remember you just went quiet. If I’m wrong, can you please post a link?

  85. Sancho
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:35 | #85

    Out of curiosity, Terje, do you believe the arguments against climate change are fundamentally different from the arguments against evolution, the tobacco-cancer link and against the HIV-AIDS connection?

  86. David Irving (no relation)
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:56 | #86

    Terje’s a glibertarian. Expecting rational argument from him is misguided.

  87. Tom
    February 22nd, 2012 at 12:23 | #87

    @TerjeP

    I believe that you might have confused yourself over the people’s attitude towards climate change.

    First, climate change science is not created by the left but by the scientist society so by saying that the left should back away from debating about whether if climate change is real or it’s left’s wet dream does not make sense. The debate was supposed to be between the climate change scientists and the deniers (which holds no political interest in the beginning just pure scientific argument); also it is absurd to say that all climate change scientist are leftist (maybe not even half of them are before the evidence were gathered and the debate started). The scientist had supported the left’s view most likely because the left supports to act on climate change but not because the scientists are leftists to begin with. If that is the case why it is left’s wet dream?

    Secondly, the debate between climate change between the left and the right has changed over time. The arguments at first was how should people act on it based on scientific evidence, now it has become whether if it exist. Which the left happens to support to act on it before it’s too late and the right happens to deny it. The claims by the right recently has been completely non-sense such as “climate change is a leftist conspiracy” when the left has nothing to do with the research and establishment of the climate change science itself in the first place.

    I don’t know if you understand me or not, but I hope you can think about this.

  88. Sancho
    February 22nd, 2012 at 12:40 | #88

    It’s not the argument I’m interested in so much as the apparent inability to recognise that climate change “skepticism” is a version of Intelligent Design, driven mostly by the same people and institutions who argued to the end that smoking is unrelated to lung cancer.

    PFAW has an excellent account of the way climate “skeptic” organisations are specifically recruiting creationists by appealing to their suspicion of evolutionary science:

    http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/the-green-dragon-slayers-how-the-religious-right-and-the-corporate-right-are-joining-fo

    Here’s some wisdom from E. Calvin Beisner, member of the sensibly skeptical Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, speaking at a conference alongside Chris Monckton:

    “Raising the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration…is not going to cause catastrophic global warming.”

    “Our God is a more intelligent designer than to make a system so fragile, and a better judge to call such a system ‘very good’ after he made it,”.

  89. Dan
    February 22nd, 2012 at 12:52 | #89

    @Sancho

    The conservative in me thinks that if something is ‘very good’ you’d go to some lengths not to dick with it.

  90. Sancho
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:02 | #90

    And that’s the approach some religious groups take, Dan. They regard themselves as stewards of the planet rather than exploiters.

    The evangelical view is tied up in the idea that when the earth is wrecked Jesus will have to come back to rescue the faithful. They actually want an environmental apocalypse, so it’s no surprise that groups like the Heartland Institute tailor their message to suit fundamentalist audiences.

  91. Dan
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:06 | #91

    Ah – ‘redemptive reactionaries’ in Mark Lilla’s taxonomy.

    ‘Morons’ in mine.

  92. Troy Prideaux
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:08 | #92

    “Our God is a more intelligent designer than to make a system so fragile, and a better judge to call such a system ‘very good’ after he made it,”

    Wonder what they say about the God of Venus then?

  93. Sancho
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:16 | #93

    Dan :
    Ah – ‘redemptive reactionaries’ in Mark Lilla’s taxonomy.

    …”accept that the revolution occurred and can’t be undone, and so they want to trigger a second, counterrevolution, with the hopes of undoing the first set of changes, in a sort of political hard reset.”

    Exactly. Interestingly, libertarianism – or the the form of right-wing extremism that calls itself that – is the new communism, in that its believers appear to want to destroy everything achieved since the Enlightenment and start over again, with Ayn Rand replacing ancient philosophers for guidance.

  94. Tim Macknay
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:29 | #94

    Interestingly, libertarianism – or the the form of right-wing extremism that calls itself that – is the new communism, in that its believers appear to want to destroy everything achieved since the Enlightenment and start over again, with Ayn Rand replacing ancient philosophers for guidance.

    I’ve always found ‘libertarians’, with their doctrinaire utopianism, their one-fit solution for all problems, and their ability to insist that reality confirms to their beliefs in the face of the obvious, to be more reminiscient of a student Trotskyist group than any other political tendency. It’s almost like libertarians and Trotskyists are mirror images of each other.

  95. rog
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:35 | #95

    Is this the same intelligent designer that allows war to be waged?

  96. Mel
    February 22nd, 2012 at 13:44 | #96

    Terje sounds as unhinged and hysterical as an anti-fluoride nutter. Why not just stick with the science?

  97. Sancho
    February 22nd, 2012 at 16:11 | #97

    The same reason conservatives didn’t stick with the science on geocentrism, germ theory or evolution: it undermines the aristocratic hierarchy that authoritarians depend on to feel safe and interpret their place in the world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarian_personality

  98. February 23rd, 2012 at 00:19 | #98

    I don’t want to derail this thread any further, but feel compelled to point out that Mel’s description of the Vic Greens position on fluoride is out of date. About two years ago that clause was removed from our policies, over the anguished screams of about five anti-fluridationists (some of whom promptly left the party). To do so required a 75% vote of state council, and from memory it passed fairly comfortably. No explicitly pro-flouride policy was inserted to replace it, but had anyone proposed one I think it would have passed.

    I have met a couple of anti-vaccinators in the party, but the fact is they’re a tiny minority. Cranks can get control of small branches, but I there’s no support on these issues from the party’s MPs. Rather different from the Republicans or Liberals on AGW.

  99. Chris O’Neill
    February 23rd, 2012 at 02:39 | #99

    @TerjeP

    I’m not sure why it is a sin to be well funded and coordinate

    A bit like saying, I’m not sure why it is a sin for crime to be well funded and coordinated.

  100. Sancho
    February 27th, 2012 at 11:38 | #100

    Just following up with a vid of Potholer skewering the anti-vaccination myth:

    http://polo-jasso.deviantart.com/gallery/

Comments are closed.