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Counting to three

April 11th, 2013

Responding to my observation that Andrew Bolt’s estimate of the impact of the carbon tax/price on global warming was out by a couple of orders of magnitude (he calculated the impact for one year, not that over the decades for which the policy is supposed to operate), Quadrant contributor John Dawson jumped into the fray and pronounced himself satisfied with Bolt’s arithmetic (H/T Terje Petersen). Dawson’s piece is too confused for a link but confusing enough that Terje couldn’t see where he ran into error. Rather than try to clean up this arithmetic mess, I’ll step back to something much simpler – the inability of Dawson, and his mentor Keith Windschuttle, to count to three.

Long-term readers will recall that, back in 2002, Windschuttle made quite a splash with The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land, 1803-1847, which attempted a revisionist account of the tragic history of the Tasmanian Aborigines. He didn’t achieve much except to point out some sloppy footnoting in a fairly obscure recent history[1]. The main interest in the book was as an appetiser for the succeeding volumes, on Queensland and Western Australia, promised to appear on an annual schedule. Here, Windschuttle promised to refute the work of Henry Reynolds and others, who painted the frontier as a scene of prolonged violent warfare between the indigenous inhabitants and the white settlers who sought, successfully in the end, to displace and subdue them.

Year followed year, and promise followed promise, but Volumes 2 and 3 didn’t appear. Finally, in 2009, Volume 3 was published. Not only was there no Volume 2, but the new Volume 3 bore no resemblance to the book originally promised for 2004. Instead, it was a critique of the Stolen Generations report and the film Rabbit Proof Fence. Windschuttle said that this volume had been published “out of order”, and that the missing volumes 2 and 4 would appear “later”.

Even by Windschuttle’s standards, this is bizarre. The Stolen Generations debate refers almost entirely to the 20th century, so this volume, on his reasoning ought to come after the others.

It’s truly bizarre to see self-satisfied climate “sceptics” who can’t even calculate a standard error, but have convinced themselves they are smarter than professional scientists. Stranger still to see someone like Bolt, who’s incapable of basic arithmetic, treated as an expert by his readers. But surely even the editor of a literary magazine ought to be able to count to three.

Of course, Windschuttle’s problems with the integers are trivial. His real offence was to attack scholars like Henry Reynolds on the basis of promised evidence he has been unable to deliver. It’s more than a decade since Windschuttle started this stuff and, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t published anything since then showing a single error in Reynolds’ work on the Queensland frontier, or that of the other historians he accused of fabrication. It’s pretty clear who is spinning the fabrications here.

fn1. The Tasmanian history Windschuttle wants to deny wasn’t invented by leftwing historians in the 1970s. It was the standard account in the very conservative version of history I was taught in primary school, based on the tragic and undeniable fact that a people who had lived in a harsh environment for thousands of years were wiped out almost completely in a couple of generations by a combination of disease, conflict and starvation.

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  1. Geoff Andrews
    April 14th, 2013 at 15:39 | #1

    @John Dawson
    I feel confident that I can modestly claim that MY representation would fall into the “almost none” category (say, 0.38%?). Not for me the sneering at Andrew Bolt’s bias: he is but a pimple on the rabid right’s arse, with a use by date; Jones prevarication? Pah! He, when finally incarcerated, will be literally welcomed with open arms by his fellow inmates.
    Windschuttle? I dunno. Beloved by boneheads and abhorred by eggheads apparently.
    I’ll keep my powder dry on that one.
    (Note the restraint that I have exercised so far? I have resisted the use of “delusional” and “liar”.)
    Re comment #48. Menzies or Thatcher said “When you realise you’re shouting, you’ve lost the argument”.
    Re comment #40. Homophones provide an instructive study for the “properly trained mind”.

  2. April 14th, 2013 at 16:39 | #2

    I once read a criticism of Windschuttle that explained how he formed his conclusions. He only trusted the official records as giving reliable evidence. So if a court found some settlers not guilty of murdering aborigines, then for Windschuttle the murder didn’t happen.

    Of course the person who explained this could have been lying, and I could have recalled their argument wrongly…

  3. John Dawson
    April 14th, 2013 at 16:46 | #3

    @John Brookes He was lying

  4. rog
    April 14th, 2013 at 16:59 | #4

    @John Brookes There has been many unjust judgements, eg witnesses and often the accused were prevented from giving evidence because they weren’t Christian (and couldn’t swear on the bible) or they were culturally prevented from speaking a dead persons name or they didn’t speak English. Many aborigines were hung on technicalities while perpetrators were not found guilty.

  5. John Dawson
    April 14th, 2013 at 17:31 | #5

    Despite the famous poster, only two Aborigines were hanged for murder in Tasmania, in 1826 @rog The event caused such an uproar that the authorities never treated Aborigines that way again. Court testimony was a very minor part of Windschuttle’s investigations, he assessed all the evidence from any source whatsoever. If he didn’t believe it he explained why.

  6. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2013 at 17:53 | #6

    So, any inside hints on when we can expect Volume 2? Or would be better off waiting for the next instalment of Game of Thrones?

  7. John Dawson
    April 14th, 2013 at 18:12 | #7

    You keep running with that @John Quiggin It’s the best you’ve got. But I appreciate your not deleting my posts like some Left wing sites do.

  8. rog
    April 14th, 2013 at 18:51 | #8

    @John Dawson Can’t see the forest for the trees; quibbling over n hanged while genocide was brushed aside.

  9. rog
    April 14th, 2013 at 18:56 | #9

    @John Dawson It’s a strategy that Windschuttle employed, if you cant see it it doesn’t exist and if you can’t count it it doesn’t exist.

  10. John Dawson
    April 14th, 2013 at 18:58 | #10

    Yo raised hangings @rog not me. There was no genocide.

  11. John Dawson
    April 14th, 2013 at 19:30 | #11

    Personal abuse deleted. you’re on a warning now – anything more like this and you’ll be banned – JQ

  12. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2013 at 19:52 | #12

    “It’s the best you’ve got. ” it would be hard to do better, after all.

  13. April 14th, 2013 at 20:15 | #13

    The ‘Kissinger’ Cables are terrific fun:

    14. INTERNATIONAL RAMIFICATIONS: AS SENATOR MOSS NOTED IN OPENING THE CONFERENCE AND AS NO ONE DISPUTED DURING THE CONFERENCE, REGARDLESS OF HOW ONE VIEWS THE ISSUE, IT IS A GLOBAL ONE. THE QUESTION OF INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN AND COORDINATION OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH WAS NOT DISCUSSED AT ANY LENGTH, ALTHOUGH THERE WAS A DETAILED REPORT GIVEN TO THE CONFERENCE ON THE RECENT DRESDEN SYMPOSIUM. REFERENCES WERE MADE TO WMO, UNEP, ETC., BUT ONGOING PROGRAMS ARE PRESUMABLY ALREADY APPROPRIATELY INTERCONNECTED INTERNATIONALLY–INFORMALLY AT LEAST–AND FUTURE WORK WILL HOPEFULLY BE COORDINATED AND RATIONALIZED VIA THE UPCOMING UNEP CONFERENCE, TO BE HELD IN WASHINGTON NEXT FEBRUARY (STATE 219195).

    15. ON THE REGULATORY SIDE, THERE WAS ALSO NO IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION OF FUTURE ACTIVITIES. NEVERTHELESS, THE CONFERENCE HEARD JAMES BRYDON OF THE CANADIAN ENVIRON- MENTAL PROTECTION SERVICE DISCUSS THE OECD WORK PROGRAM AND REFER TO THE HANDLING OF PCBS AS A USEFUL PRECEDENT. ERIK LYKKE OF THE NORWEGIAN MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT EMPHASIZED THE INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE OF THE ISSUE AND NOTED THAT IT WOULD PROBABLY BE THE U.S. WHICH WOULD TAKE THE INITIATIVE IN THE FIELD OF REGULATION (BUT THAT OTHER COUNTRIES, INCLUDING NORWAY, WOULD MOST LIKELY QUICKLY FOLLOW ANY LEAD TAKEN BY THE U.S.). HE ARGUED THAT FOR THE LONG-RUN PROTECTION OF THE STRATOSPHERE FROM THREATS SUCH AS FLUOROCARBONS, EMISSIONS FROM SUPERSONIC AIRCRAFT, POSSIBLE IMPACTS FROM FERTILIZERS, ETC., IT WOULD BE DESIRABLE TO BEGIN IMMEDIATELY TO DEVELOP AN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION, PERHAPS AKIN TO THE 1972 OCEAN DUMPING CONVENTION. HE INDICATED, HOWEVER, THAT NATIONAL REGULATORY ACTIONS SHOULD NOT WAIT FOR SUCH A CONVENTION TO BE ESTABLISHED, WHICH WOULD PROBABLY TAKE SEVERAL YEARS. KISSINGER

    That was 1976, and we managed to actually do something serious about protecting the ozone layer. And here in 2013 we absolutely must not do anything about global warming, apparently.

    We’re doomed, aren’t we?

  14. Daniel
    April 19th, 2013 at 22:29 | #14

    I have read Mark Davis book “The Land of Plenty: Australia in the 2000″, where he makes reference to this literature or a Quadrant article by Windschuttle; where one of the more comical points made was that, because a certain word didn’t exist in the Aboriginal language, it couldn’t of happen against them by the white man, the word could have been ‘stolen’ or ‘war’ (I no longer have the book, so I am not 100% sure of the word). There was also a point that Windschuttle didn’t recongise the amount of stolen aboriginals even though there was strong evidence/proof

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