Crop circles and contrarians

Back in the 1990s, before the Internet created the self-sustaining parallel universe now inhabited by Republicans and their sympathisers, the task of casting doubt on climate science fell to a group of thinktanks and lobby groups. The most active was the Global Climate Coalition, funded by an array of industry groups, notably including motor and oil companies. Since climate delusions never die, a large number of the factoids now circulating among those who absurdly refer to themselves as “skeptics” can be traced back to the GCC and its FUD machine.

As reported by the New York Times, a recent court case allows us a peek behind the curtain at the (now-disbanded GCC). It turns out that even as the Global Climate Coalition was promoting delusional claims, its own scientists were advising that they would not stand up to scrutiny.

You might think that a chapter-and-verse demonstration of how the trick was performed might shock some self-styled “sceptics” into the realisation that they had displayed credulous gullibility. But at this point delusionists are like believers in alien-generated crop circles. It doesn’t matter if the tricksters who made the circles confess, and even show how it was done. As George Bush might have said of these guys “Fool them once, and they stay fooled”.

82 thoughts on “Crop circles and contrarians

  1. The New York Times article fits the criteria for this booker prize, but i do not think it will win as there are so many better ones to pick from.

    “climate delusions never die”. If you read the whole document the IPCCs GCM’s look pretty delusional.

  2. I dont know about that John. Some strange deaths and findings in the Crop Circles exist.I wouldn’t give too much strength to the crop circle skeptics,they are just pushing a impossible solution to how it has been done.Although I bet they’re still years behind what can be done now with human technology.Even,if, my understandings remain undecided.I was looking up Coalite, because it was mentioned on, and found a site that was yours re China and Coalite.I also found that some research by the Chinese on alternative use of the Gobi Desert could also include a Coalite industry and convert its Carbon Dioxide footprint directly or indirectly by use of Coalite.So I think, there must be heaps of morons in academia industry who take the costly approach because they like money spent on themselves.Well,it cannot continue and Coalite hardly needs the $100 million in Rudd’s give away to clean coal.Open up again on that and give them a extra blast.And besides,whats wrong with CO2 going along pipes somewhere to be used and stored and converted!? And who knows all the rusty hulk pylons around may be cured of their malady with a little applied carbonisation,in a different manner.Carbon doesn’t create rust,and carbon can have all sorts of chemicals and gas added to it,perhaps you should lecture in re-industrialisation…and bloody soon.

  3. The average age of climate change etc deniers is pretty high. Becoming reactionary in old age comes from a chemical change in many males. As medical improvements get us to live longer and longer, and old people retain the vote, this poses a problem for rational responses to these challenges.

  4. Reading Philip’s post, it looks like we have entered the age of Poe’s law in climate change comment threads

  5. So Richard Lindzen is delusional? Pretty arrogant position from someone who probably knows less than one hundredth of one percent as much as Lindzen about the climate.

  6. My motto is;

    “Physics happens. Magic doesn’t. Get over it.”

    I was dragged to the Eumundi Markets recently by Mrs Ikonoclast. I was struck by the number of shops selling magic potions, magic oils, magic crystals, astrology and card readings, magic back repairs, magic magnetic cures etc. etc. Not even several centuries of science and the effective refutation of all received belief systems seem to be enough to cure many people of the wish to believe in magic.

  7. As indicate by his willingness to dispute the link between smoking and lung cancer, Lindzen is an irresponsible contrarian – willing to argue a position he knows to be dubious at best on the basis that no-one can prove hom wrong to his own satisfaction. He has certainly helped to delude many (notably including nearly all rightwingers).

  8. I have noticed that those in the natural sciences who once suggested a important role for the human mind in explaining natures order, have been moving furiously toward hard-core materialism that is charecterised by nineteenth century physics. At the same time, physicists, faced with compelling experimental evidence, have been moving away from strictly mechanical models of the universe to a view that sees the mind as playing an integral role in all physical events. “The Observer” plays a central role in the nature of physical reality.

    For example, Einsteins capacity to step outside the mechanical world and into the world of “relativity”. Relativity has yielded many applications including cosmology and nuclear power.

    The second issue that I have noticed is that the debate revolves around egos. The left and the right (apparently) have taken opposing positions on the matter of AGW. Those on the left and the right have egos bigger than King Kong and pejorative refrences are all that could possibly be exchanged because there positions are so entrenched. Any reference to potential qeustionable data (to the current status quo) is often dismissed as propaganda and/or delusional on either side.

    AGW advocates persist with hardline views that try to abolish the role of the mind altogether.
    The persistent dissmissive references to the “delusional right” on the matter of AGW, usually illicit a response from the right of facist rhetoric.

    A third dimension to this issue is the role of the state. We’ll its obvious by now that the state will do whats good for the state first, for the corporates second, and for the people third and the environment is the political football. (note for those who think the people come first just refer back to the bank bailout and who was actually bailed out and whose paying. In the real world when someone is insolvent they are bankrupted and removed from the business, instead the state resorts to chasing little greedy bankers, instead of dismantling the stupid directors and there well connected mates in parlaiment.)

    Based on what I have just mentioned you will have to excuse my skepticism and if I could stand anywhere other than the right or left I would. I would be quiet comfortable with Ian Plimer or Freeman Dyson current skeptical position on AGW. Of course this would not preclude me from wanting to protect our environment. I would even consider a plan to deal with the likelihood of a global warming scenario but it would have to one that was people friendly first.

  9. As indicate by his willingness to dispute the link between smoking and lung cancer

    I love this one. No-one has ever produced more than a second-hand reference by some newsweek reporter to justify this claim. No direct quote. Nothing in print. Talk about clutching at straws.

    If that’s all you got to back up your claim of intellectual superiority over Lindzen in matters of climate science, well I know who I’d believe.

  10. Skepticked – I’m reading your post as ambiguous – are you claiming that there is no evidence to support the link between smoking and lung cancer?

  11. No – I am claiming there’s almost no evidence to support the claim that Lindzen disputes the link between smoking and lung cancer.

  12. “Nothing in print”

    Newsweek is a print magazine, and published a first-hand report of an interview with Lindzen. But of course, that’s not enough for you, any more than the direct evidence of fraud quoted in the post. It’s crop circles all the way down for you guys.

  13. “Based on what I have just mentioned you will have to excuse my skepticism”

    No, I won’t, nor will I dignify credulous wishful thinking by that name.

    Certainly this thread has demonstrated my point better than the post itself. Every rightwing commenter who has turned up has restated their adherence to delusionism, and the only response to the evidence of fraud is to ignore it, or in Tony G’s case, to suggest that the New York Times is making it up.

  14. The *only* quote I have ever found regarding Lindzen’s view on lung cancer is the following:

    He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking.

    That is one line in a long article. It is not a direct quote. It is not “in print” in the sense of a claim in writing by Lindzen himself. I have never seen any corroborating quotes or remarks from Lindzen. And even if it were an accurate representation of Lindzen’s views (which I doubt), it doesn’t support the claim that Lindzen disputes the link between smoking and lung cancer.

    Like I said, if that’s all you got, you got nuthin’.

    Every rightwing commenter who has turned up has restated their adherence to delusionism

    Do you really believe your own propaganda? Or is it simply that you define delusionism vacuously to be any view that is opposed to your own?

  15. The only reason John Quiggin describes sceptics as delusional is because he has lost the argument and needs to resort to ad hominems to continue it.

    John, you simply are not competent to distinguish science from pseudoscience, or as it is perjoratively described, dialectic science.

    AGW could be best described as delusional science, since its fundamental assumption, has never been empirically verified by experiment.

    Until it has, you and your cohort are simply latter day lysenkoists.

  16. Lysenko has zero relevance to AGW as a theory. Lysenko is an interesting example of how power may be abused, however.

    BTW, what is the fundamental assumption of AGW? Seriously.

  17. “delusionists are like believers in alien-generated crop circles”
    The logic in this statement jumps out like the Monty Python “She’s a witch” scene
    If she weighs the same as a duck she must be a witch

  18. Welcome back Proust/Whatever you were called after that I’ve forgotten, pardon me, OK I just checked — Mugwump/Skepticked.

  19. Gee its hot in here! It must be the aliens landing in the crop circles that are warming the planet – anything but GW – anything but the obvious byproducts and wastes and residues of our own nasty dirty production methods. Anything but that! (irony alert).

  20. “link between smoking and lung cancer, Lindzen is an irresponsible contrarian”

    You see that statement just about sums you up Mr Q.
    And what would you have done to Newton who believed in Alchemy, or einstien with his famous blast at quantum physics “god does not play dice”?

    It might come as a bit of a shock to you mrQ that people who never smoke in their lives die of lung cancer. and yes I do believe that their is a much higher chance of lung cancer caused by smoking.

    I also believe that Lindzen and indeed James Lovelock are superb scientists. We all including scientist have some stupid irrational belief in our closet. some of us know so, some of us dont.

    Here is a tip, try playing the ball and not the man.

  21. #24 As you’ll see, Sean, Lindzen was introduced as an argument from authority. So, evidence that he is willing to say silly things to be contrary is relevant in working out why he differs from the vast majority of climate scientists.

    If you want to “play the ball” in a scientific debate, get a PhD in the field, do some research and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. Otherwise, accept the results of those who’ve done the work as the only reasonable basis for policy.

  22. Frankis, I had the same thought, but if so, prolonged seclusion in the Republican thought bubble is having its effects. Skepticked appears much less capable of independent of independent thought than was Dogz (first incarnation, I think). A decline was certainly evident with Mugwump, but even so, I’m doubtful this is him.

  23. If you want to “play the ball” in a scientific debate, get a PhD in the field, do some research and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. Otherwise, accept the results of those who’ve done the work as the only reasonable basis for policy.

    You accept the results of those who support your position, and “play the man” when they don’t. Cute.

  24. The source for Lindzen saying that there is no evidence of I’ll effects from smoking is an interview he gavevto a Newsweek journalist in 2001. Perhaps the journalist misrepresented him but if so Lindzen appears to have made no attempt to correct the record. (Anyone could just email him at MIT and ask him.)

    Interestingly most of Lindzen’s supporters seem to view his apparent opinions on smoking and health as a point in his favour, which reinforces what a sound scientist he is, but this probably says more about them than him.

  25. Have any of Lindzen’s claims regarding the consensus been published in a peer review journal?

    Does Lindzen have a standing paper in any peer review journal that can provide a mechanism as to why current global warming isn’t something to worry about?

  26. There is unfortunately an anti-intellectual sub-stratum of adults who seem to persist in being irrational and uneducable. “Contrarians” is a fair enough label for them. I have found, by and large, that they are beyond help.

    The only hope is in the education of the next generation. Our education system needs to be reformed to go beyond narrow technical and job-targeted education which these days creates only “cubicle-fodder”.

    Cubicle-fodder is a Dilbert comic reference. By it I mean people who sit in front of a computer in a cubicle or open plan office in a kind of electronic battery-chook fashion. They always do exactly what the corporation tells them to do. They have few independent thoughts or ideas beyond what corporate and advertising propaganda have given them. Their world view is informed by this propaganda alone as they have no other intellectual inputs.

    As I said, the only hope is in the education of the next generation. Our education system needs to include, from high school, a full humanist education with proper attention to history, philosophy (with especial attention to epistemological issues and the difference between knowledge and belief), logic and science (including a proper understanding of the history and methods of scientific inquiry and experiment).

    Only when and if the broader public becomes a little more philosophically and scientifically literate will we see this kind of anti-intellectual and corporate-propagandised contrarianism wither away.

  27. “…you and your cohort are simply latter day lysenkoists…”

    “Lysenko”. He was an agronomist and KGB operative who had some strange ideas about winter wheat. Stalin liked him and his ideas. Consequently Lysenko was able to get his academic opponents banished to Siberia.

    Apparently, in the nether-world that is denialist ‘thought’ this is supposed to tell us something about AGW.

    Denialist group-think is extraordinary. Do you guys get briefing notes or something? This is the third time in the past week I’ve heard Lysenko used as an ‘attack’ on AGW. Plimer, some guy in another blog and now here. I’m betting Miranda Devine or Counterpoint will have a session on him soon.

    I’m reluctant to go too far down this path. Afterall, as Prof Q says, what’s the point? The denialists will believe what they want to. But there’s something bizarre about Lysenko being invoked to attack AGW. Surely the Lysenko affair tells us that mainstream science can’t be ignored. It may be politically convenient to pretend that the mainstream science is faulty but it will eventually come back and bite you on the bum… Oh, I can’t be bothered.

  28. Sean said @ 24
    “try playing the ball and not the man.”

    As the evidence for AGW is invented (i.e. using a theory to prove itself, is an invalid circular argument), what other option do they have. AGW proponents live in an illusory world, where unaccountability and derision go hand in hand.

    Their biggist real problem is people are starting to freeze their balls off, so soon they will have to try and install AGC as a revenue raising measure instead of AGW.

  29. Ikonoclast
    I think the correct term is “neo-contrarians”. Its finely practised theatre art form and can be amusing but its definitely not science.

  30. Ikonoclast – speaking of the next generation, they are here already. Im hearing first hand how they are not happy with the way things are being managed and dont believe all the free market, self regulation of firms, and AGW nonsense etc. In short Im quite surprised at their insight already. There is an evolution already happening out there. I can see the young broom coming to sweep this nonsense and these silly arguments away. The contrarians are losing their grip and unless they plan to be caste into the wilderness of political eccentricity for a long time they will have to revise their script(s).

  31. I think Lysenko is intended as a tar-n-feathering job; that is, Lysenko was a product of a Commie system, ergo so are people who think AGW might be real, based on the evidence thus far…

    It is amazing to see how this particular issue cleaves down the line of left/right, in political parlance. Even more amazing is that real sceptics such as myself are portrayed by Plimer et al as baa-lamb believers in AGW. It is possible to have a sceptical frame of mind when analysing something, without necessarily rejecting or accepting it – scientists wouldn’t make much progress if they were sceptical of every prior piece of information and data gathered before them. Then again, scientists generally assume other scientists will play fair – at least until that assumption is challenged by discovery of fraud or data cooking, for example.

    Ian Plimer and co. unfortunately practice a very narrow, indeed reflexive, version of scepticism, committing the cardinal sin of putting the cart before the horse (ie, the “majority” must be wrong, and so the conclusion die is cast before considering the scientific evidence).

    Ian Plimer’s Lateline interview had better not be indicative of the material in his book, or I will have wasted my dough.

  32. Has anyone investigated the link between Australians who don’t believe in global warming and those who don’t believe in ‘stolen generations’. Largely the same people, I think.

    Both are symptoms of a defense mechanism about imputations against our history. Western human progress is a perfect thing and can do no wrong.

  33. “Dolly” you summed it up well with your irony. “Western human progress is a perfect thing and can do no wrong.”

    In a lot of ways, it comes back to the total worship of naked self-interest by the conservative contrarians coupled with a complete denial that that is the sum total of their moral philosophy.

  34. What’s your point about Eveleigh Street Redfern, Tony G? Spell it out plain for all to see.

  35. AFAIK, Lindzen’s most relevant contribution to the peer-reviewed literature was the adaptive iris hypothesis he put forward in 2001 to suggest that feedbacks from water vapor might be negative. This got shot down fairly promptly and, again AFAIK, he hasn’t revisited it. But, it was a serious piece of work that deserves to be (and is) taken into account when assessing the science as a whole.

    His role in public debate has been another matter, and of a piece with his statement about smoking.

  36. It’s crop circles all the way down for you guys.

    That’s great comedy, much like the rest of the thread. Upon rereading Hawking’s classic book a few years ago, I repeated the introductory story to a couple of colleagues at the pub, after work, and all I got back was blank stares. I guess the comedy is lost on some people.

  37. The water-vapour-feedback question is still alive and kicking. The balance between positive feedback from low-altitude clouds blocking OLR (outgoing longwave radiation), and negative feedback from high-altitude clouds reflecting ISR (Incoming Shortwave Radiation) is still not well understood, and is not modeled well by any climate models.

    On the empirical front, the amount of OLR measured by satellites is not consistent with the high sensitivities of climate models. This is Lindzen’s main point, of which the Iris hypothesis was but one attempt at an explanation. See also Roy Spencer on this.

  38. and of a piece with his statement about smoking.

    What statement? How many times do you need it pointed out: Lindzen has never made such a public statement. He has been reported as having some kind of opinion on the link between smoking and lung cancer, but that is all.

    Never let the truth get in the way of a convenient lie.

  39. If humans can – cause deserts by deforestation and overgrazing
    cause bee hive collapse from insecticides taken up by plant roots
    cause acid rain from suphur emissions
    cause the ozone hole to enlarge from CFC emissions
    cause mercury accumulation in fish from coal burning emissions
    cause asthma in children from motor vehicle emissions
    then an intelligent person without prejudices, would have to conclude that, on the balance of probabilities, humans can also cause the globe to warm from greenhouse gas emissions.

    There being a scientific consensus for all these things, the only explanation by my logic is the existence of prejudice in the minds of deniers and skeptics.

    The definition of prejudice I am using is ‘ any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.’

    I recently came across a theory that human caused desertification and deforestation has so inhibited the planet’s ability to sequester CO2 that it can’t now deal with natural emissions let alone the massive amounts we add to the system.

  40. Deforestation actually enhances the earth’s sequestration capacity An old-growth forest is essentially carbon-neutral, so can’t help you remove CO2. Chopping it down, turning the wood into furniture or buildings, and planting a new forest will sequester CO2.

    So what we need is to turn all the old-growth forests into plantation timber farms, and promote massive population growth to soak up the extra supply of timber.

    BTW, reasonable skeptics don’t dispute that the earth is warming. Nor do they dispute that some component is probably human induced. The argument is over how much. I am skeptical about the evidence for alarm (as is Lindzen).

  41. Ikonoclast Says:@ 40

    “What’s your point about Eveleigh Street Redfern, Tony G? Spell it out plain for all to see”.

    In the hallucinogenic AGW world view, a place like this is perceived as great for kids to grow up in;

    “It’s a weekday morning but there are plenty of locals hanging around the streets. In the shell of an abandoned house several people are crashed out on a ragged old sofa. Broken glass crunches underfoot as you pass terrace houses in various stages of dilapidation. Some are completely derelict, their windows and doors bricked up to stop them becoming drug dens – the reason most of the houses on Eveleigh have already been bulldozed.”

    You can continue hallucinating and call it a ‘stolen generation’ if you wish, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they ‘still’ need saving from themselves.

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