Oz meltdown: Quiggin edition

Reading the latest delusionist nonsense at the Oz (from William Kininmonth) I was surprised, to put it mildly, to find myself quoted as an authority for the proposition that

mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs

Readers may recall that what I actually wrote in the Fin last week was

While most media outlets give at least some space to these conspiracy theorists, the central role has been played by The Australian. Not only its opinion columnists (with a handful of honorable exceptions) and its editorials, but even its news reporting is dominated by the idea that mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs, publishing their findings not in the peer-reviewed literature but through blogs, thinktanks and vanity presses

Interestingly, not even the keenest delusionists in the comments thread managed to construe this as a suggestion that amateur climate ‘science’ was actually a serious threat to the real thing. I’ll be interested to see how they manage to endorse or excuse Kininmonth here, and if any of them are actually willing to admit that one of their seemingly more reputable authorities (unlike the usual run of drama critics, dotty peers, retired mining executives and so on, Kininmonth has held an impressive range of positions and even, though mostly in the distant past, published some real peer-reviewed research ) has either been deliberately doctoring quotes or is incapable of basic comprehension.

In the spirit of sceptical inquiry, I’m not jumping to conclusions about the Oz itself on this one. Opinion editors rarely fact check their columnists, and on one memorable occasion back in the Tom Switzer era, reader Terje Peterson managed to elicit a correction from Janet Albrechtsen after a team effort here demonstrated that one of her columns was based on a misreading of statistics.

In the hope of a double, I’ve written to the Oz, asking for a correction in the following terms:

In “Cold facts dispel theories on warming” William Kininmonth attributed to John Quiggin the claim that “mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs” . Quiggin does not hold this view, and the article in question referred to such claims, propagated by Kininmonth and others in the pages of The Australian, as displaying “a large dose of delusion.”

So, we’ll see what they have to say. Either way, anyone who thought Kininmonth deserved to be taken more seriously than, say, Lord Monckton > , will have to think again.

Update Wednesday’s Fin ran a letter from Kininmonth with the same doctored quote. Of course, there is almost no factchecking of letters, so I don’t blame the Fin for this and, if I can make some space, I can always reply in my next column. This is a reminder that the Oz still has time to redeem itself by running a correction. No word yet on this.

84 thoughts on “Oz meltdown: Quiggin edition

  1. “In fact support for the republic peaked about 15 years ago, when Keating was shoving his elitist views down everyones throats.”

    in fact, republican support has been articially suppressed by John Howard shoving his elitist views down people’s throats . . .

  2. Alice, you don’t remember Media Watch, going back maybe five year to a decade, when Chris Mitchell was shown up as one those runing an orchestrated culture wars smear campaign with historian Manning Clark the target?
    A salvo in the black armband campaigns invoked to justify everything from the overiding of Wik and Mabo; everything from appropriation of Aboriginal property rights, to the death of Civil Society particularly Keynesian welfare; to the gelding of public broadcasting and “broadsheet” education( for want of a better term ).
    So, in this era when big busines wants unfettered access to fossil fuels for cheap power and for export and allied problems like Murray-Darling over allocations and destruction of incresingly rare old growth native forests, likewise a campaign is started invoking stuff from hired hands like William Bogong-moth and Plimer.
    It’s nothing to do with the science; everything to do with vested interests intent on shifting public opinion, regardless of whether inquiry and science raises questions or not.
    But I can understand why Quiggin is feeling aggreived. To call bloke an “economist”, well, that’s as pretty much below the belt as you can get…

  3. Ha ha Paul! Poor JQ. An economist! But a good one (lord help us. Look what else is out there parading as economists!)
    I know about the culture wars. The culture of smear and harassment of innocent people by some pretty dark, sneaky and dubious types I might add.
    We live in Australia – if I hadnt read about the history of it (widely) I would never have believed it. Some people are desperate arent they?

    Freedom of speech and freedom of thought and freedom of political belief or religious belief and independence of academia so that a country can gather the best of its intelligence without interference of commercial interests?

    Nope, not here in Australia. All our high ideals got thrown in a garbage bin somewhere. Its a backwoods of narrow minded vindictiveness.

  4. ProfQ,

    Do you support nuclear power in Australia? If we take a reality-based approach to our energy needs, what is the best and most efficient and green way of delivering energy to Australian households and businesses?

  5. Speaking of economics, wonder if JQ will do a thread starter on the Defence White Paper.
    They’ve just cracked down on the unemployed again, yet we are set to go bust in readiness for the next round with the Yellow Peril?

  6. # 75 Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer Says: May 1st, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I am curious to know what Jack Strocchi thinks of his beloved Paul Sheahan’s flipflop on climate change. He is now, after reading this week’s book, a denier. (The book seems to be not unlike Sheahan’s of about 15 years ago, a kind of right-wing Pilgeresque explanation of the way the world operates. Sheahan’s sold well too.)

    Well, u-humm [clears throat noisily, stalling desperately for time]…I am flattered that Lord “Dolly” condescends to consider my opinion on these weighty matters of state. But I had rather hoped he had better things to do with his time.

    Its no secret that I have been a big fan of Sheehan’s work over the years. On “anthropological” matters he is utterly sound and can be relied on to expound his brand of populist unconventional wisdom at the drop of a hat. Good red-meat, all grist to the mill of we foaming-at-the-mouth Cultural Right-wingers.

    And until recently he has also been a reliable source of conventional wisdom on ecological matters. But just the other day he blotted his copybook. To be fair he did not go the whole way and actually endorse Pilmer’s conclusion. What he did endorse was Pilmer’s attacks on climate change “conformity and orthodoxy”:

    Heaven And Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.

    This is not a hanging offence. But its “not a good look” either.

    But thats not a good enough reason to consign the rest of Sheehan’s work to the trash can of ideological history. The Left still needs to be called to account for opening up a front in the war on science.

    In fact there is a quite good symmetry between Right- and Left-wing denialism and delusionism in matters of science here. The “Old Right” are undoubtedly delusional about ecological matters. But the “New Left” (+ “no enemies to the Left” camp followers – no names no pack drill), are almost as bad in anthropological matters.

    How else do you explain the fact that James Watson, the founder of modern genetics, was forced to recant and resign after violating a politically correct taboo on a contentious matter in the genetics of race. Ditto Larry Summers for over-stepping the same sort of line in the genetics of gender.

    And just last month Steve Rose, a notorious Marxist biologist, was suggesting that the scientific establishment should shut-down research into the biological basis for racial disparities. Instead of being hooted off stage he was, to the shame of Science Magazine, given a forum for airing this disgraceful view.

    Way to go to promote the open-ended pursuit of truth.

    Chris Mooney, a vehement critic of the Right, acknowledged that many Left-wingers could be as biased in the social sciences as Right-wingers were biased in the natural sciences:

    Harvard celebrated cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker…explained to me how this political reality tends to wall of certain areas of inquiry that might be seen as supporting conservative viewpoints: When its academics who wield the power, the political bias will be on the Left.

    Obviously the New Left et al have to do some pretty serious soul searching about their commitment to science in areas where Paul Sheehan has courageously covered over the years. (And been vindicated too: hows ATSIC going these days, eh?)

  7. 80# Hmmmmm Paul Walter – I worried about that too. A fiscal stimulus set to flow straight out and stimulate the US military industry and the US (hardware imports to us).? Now is not exactly a good time.

  8. 80# Paul. At least I read today that some will be built in Adelaide but it is still a worry to know that it was opposed by the Treasurer.

  9. Re Alice, #83. You can bet if the little shagger had been a croweater he wouldn’t have opposed it.
    Or if it had meant more damage done to the Murray Darling.

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