Pearson and the parallel universe

The Oz has published another response to my piece in the Fin, this time from Christopher Pearson. Unlike with William Kininmonth, I can’t complain about misquotation: Pearson gives extensive and fairly representative quotes from the article.

Pearson cites my observation that conservative political activists have constructed a parallel intellectual universe and goes on to say

This is precisely the kind of analysis I apply when trying to explain what sociologists call the plausibility structures that serve to underpin the twilight world of the warmists. Quiggin is fighting fire with fire, in much the same way that Marxist and Christian apologists used to try and encompass and thus explain away one another’s world views

Analytically, this is about right. Parallelism is a symmetric relationship, so Pearson’s view of my intellectual universe (and that of, among others, the US National Academy of Science, the Royal Society, NOAA, CSIRO and well over 95 per cent of active climate scientists) is much the same as my view of his (where these roles are filled by bodies like, among others, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Lavoisier Group, and experts such as those on Senator Inhofe’s list of 650-odd dissenters

– note the presence of such eminent Australian scientists as Louis Hissink and Alan Moran of the IPA).

I’ve always managed to maintain civil terms of debate with Pearson, and I hope to continue that, but of course discussions between parallel universes tend not to result in much in the way of serious engagement. I will however, restate my point that the problems with the parallel universe go well beyond climate change. An example is the way Pearson fell for the bogus claim that environmentalists had banned the antimalarial use of DDT, a claim propagated by now-discredited tobacco industry hack Stephen Milloy, and circulated through the parallelosphere by such authorities as Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Crichton. I had a to at it here and parasitologist Alan Lymbery did a thorough demolition here

. Pearson didn’t AFAIK revisit the DDT myth (and even refers to it as a human health hazard here), but neither has he learned any lessons about the reliability of sources like Lomborg and Crichton.

Still, by contrast with the usual standard of the Oz, Pearson’s piece is relatively calm and fairminded. I have only one major complaint. Pearson, like Kininmonth, misstates my view of where the issue is going, suggesting that I think the anti-science campaign is gaining ground with the general pubic. On the contrary, Australian public opinion is solidly behind mainstream science (PDF). [1] An ANU survey showed 56 per cent of responds agreeing that “global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in
your lifetime?” and only 13 per cent saying “No threat”. This is a strongly worded question, since the stated position is at the pessimistic end of mainstream opinion, represented by people like James Hansen and the book Climate Code Red. The response “not very serious” is pretty much consistent with mainstream opinion for respondents who don’t expect to be around after, say 2050. Only “No threat” is consistent with rejection of the science.

The real problem is not that delusionism is gaining ground in public debate. It is the continued prevalence of delusionist beliefs in the conservative political parties and among conservative political activists and commentators. In the long run, the conservatives will pay a high political price for this (they are already beginning to do so). But, on climate change, we don’t have time to wait for the long run.

fn1. Pearson quotes a Rasmussen poll which suggests the opposite, but Rasmussen seems to throw up odd results pretty frequently.

71 thoughts on “Pearson and the parallel universe

  1. Then there were the father’s lobby groups with their somehow glossy bound printed submissions (very very expensive looking with lots of ad agency style) that were supported with quite a few concessions granted by Howard not the least of which was that for the purposes of child support payments every man in Australia has their salary deemed to be no more than “$100,000” of which only about 20% of which has to be paid for child support.
    That means a man earning 1 mill pa can walk away and pay approx 20K for one child per year if he wants.
    Misogyny actually, or “childogyny”.

  2. Jill#50
    These media blitzing orgs are very blokey arent they and they are making a total mess of things! (infrastructure, health, transport, employment etc just to pander to the short term business interests of a few).

    I almost think its high time we started a females first political party. Want affordable childcare, better transport, better schools, better health and more honesty in the media and in government and some sound economic policies?

    The first thing we do is up the tax on the rich, so they cant waste their surplus riches funding political lobby groups and politicians and snowballing the media and undoing the economy as a whole, just so they can do even better as individuals (for themselves and their cohorts).

    We gave them a huge tax cut in the 1980s and this is the thanks we get?

    I personally think Australian women would do a lot better job than the blokes have been doing (on the environment, on unemployment, on public services).

    Females first and all of us (males and females) would be better off. We would take votes from all parties (end the damn division) and run the nation’s budget better (not into the ground with nasty right wing policies of greed seeking to lower their taxes and regulation even further).

    They can pay up or go elsewhere. We dont need them, weevils in the flour (you first Rupert).

  3. The blog subject in short – denialists (Pearson in this case) in our denialist media (the Australian in this case) and how he denies that there is a denialist publishing industry creating a parallel universe of denial based on unscientific garbage denying GW.

  4. I didn’t take any notes of my own after reading Pearson and rereading the posts.Firstly because I take my cup of poison from sources other than Australian as a now climate change cooling acceptor,I find any reference to the Australian newspaper hard to take,because essentially who they are helping make profits,the overbearing and cheating Murdoch.Not quite intellectual,very personal and protective towards the Quigginses of the world because of this offensive man Murdoch. I am also a supporter of Toben,David Irving,and, do not consider DavidIcke a moron KeeleyNet.com either Makow’s savethemale site or Alex Jones Infowars.com or Jeff Rense incapable of seeing their statements and analyses being converted to chaff by interests in Australia that are simply not their own. Plimer hasn’t as yet, been considered as of accepting monies to write a book from the specific fossil fuel industry coal.Many mention fossil fuel interests,and, carbon sequestration came from the fossil fuel… oil industry.I am, as a non academic, now been persuaded to think the fossil fuel description isn’t legitimate..and the Russians were slightly more scientific about matters,than others today,whilst unable to accept I could of lived in Russia at the time of the counter theory to fossil fuels.To simply believe, that anyone who has decided Australian science and or the Murdoch camp,are rebounding with truths scientific,isn’t the same as the general scientific process, so please bite your bum,thinking Murdoch would by his journalism “informing” could convince the likes of me.To explain in a more intelligent way this process of accepting the Climate is getting cooler will never ,by me, even accept a choice to write for Murdoch.I wouldn’t accept an invite by them ever.I saw the faces of many Americans who were anti-Iraq war as journalists to think, as I already knew about Murdoch..he just creates elaborate divisions for his own purposes.There is no good in believing he doesn’t interfere with journalistic direction.He is a scumbag.

  5. I agree Philip and that man (Murdoch) has overwhelming control of the media in this country and you cant get any reasoned sensible debate on anything. Thank goodness for the Prof Qs of this world who call it for what is when the rest of us ordinary people read the rubbish and wonder what subintellectual level the discourse has sunk to.
    Its not just denial about GW, its the whole box and dice they try to shove down our throats (low taxes… for the rich, deregulation… for the rich, erosion of the public service so the rich can pay even less tax, privatisation because why shouldnt private firms get their hands on our taxes and profit from unholy alliances with government). The denialists have short term motives and that have nothing to do with sound economic policy for the nation. Its about short term greed and no long term planning, but they will collectively shoot themselves in the foot when the economy tanks. Yet the rest of us will be left to clean up the mess.

  6. Kevin @ 28, the topic of this thread is the “parallel universe”. I guess there must be another parallel universe somewhere where it is possible to simply print more money without creating inflation or other adverse economic consequences.

    You claim that it is possible to print money without creating inflation if the new money is used to purchase assets rather than consume goods and services. Not so. All this does is create inflation in asset values instead.

    Indeed, if governments distort the market by directing money to be invested in certain types of asset classes this is more likely to encourage speculative bubbles in the value of these assets.

  7. Alice @ 51, there is a perfectly sensible reason for putting a ceiling on increases in child support payments beyond a certain level of income.

    Suppose a non-custodial parent earns say $1 million a year. If they are forced to pay perhaps $100,000 or $200,000 a year in child support, one would have to be extremely naive to think that most custodial parents would spend all that money on the child and not use some of it for their own benefit.

    Putting a cap on child support payments beyond a given income prevents the creation of a gravy train for custodial parents who have children by wealthy non-custodial parents.

  8. Monkey’s uncle#58. Most custodial parents are still women and it couldnt have escaped your notice that 20g doesnt go far in Sydney. Imagine? Rupert or Ian Moss only has to pay 20 g in child support. Outrageous. Anyway, this is off topic – my point was exactly where did the money come from to mount such a glossy campaign to Howard from father’s lobby groups. This wasnt a cheap campaign. Much glossier and more expensive (using large ad agencies) than most single mothers, even organised, can afford. A concerted push (a shove?) from well heeled males against women.

  9. Monkeys Uncle# 58 The link I was trying to make is that I suspect the denialist publishers are also quite misogynistic. What they publish has a decidedly wealthy wasp male flavour. Can anyone find anything they have ever published that addresses female concerns at all (except to further disadvantage women)? I bet even conservative females dont realise exactly how “blokey” the outlook of the usual suspect conservative think tanks are.

  10. Alice, I don’t think it is fair to level accusations such as misogyny against any group or individuals without sufficient evidence. Otherwise, ad hominem attacks contribute little to the debate.

    There is also a danger of “debasing the currency”. If you use terms like misogyny when they are not warranted, it diminishes the impact of such labels when applied to those who really do warrant such descriptions.

  11. #58 Monkeys uncle please read again. I did not say purchase existing assets I said create new assets.

    That is the way the current system works. Some of the borrowed money (some of it newly printed) builds new assets. Differences between what I am saying and the existing system is who ends up owning the assets, society knowing how much money is issued and that there will always be assets to match the money issued.

    With the current method it is a hit and miss affair whether we will get enough new assets created to cover the new money created. We just hope it will but we have no idea. One of the sideshows of the current economic crisis is that we are told no one knows how many loans are out there and hence how much money exists. The USA has even given up trying to measure the M3 money supply because they just do not know.

    However, with what I am suggesting we will get new assets that newly created money represents and we will know how much money exists. These are prerequisites for a solid financial system.

    Another big difference is who gets to use the newly printed money. The existing system loans the newly printed money to those who already have assets. If we print money then we can have other criteria on who gets it other than how much they already have.

    The problem with understanding what I am talking about is that our current system has made loans and money the same. You create money by creating a loan and you do not know which loan creates new money because there is a lot of old money around to lend and the system treats new and old exactly the same and the two are mixed.

    It does not have to be that way. Money is a measure of value – a loan is a promise to pay – and we can separate the two.

    To implement you only allow banks to loan money they have on deposit and you find another way to increase the money supply where the money supply increase will be covered by an increase in real wealth or assets. The current system is meant to match money created to assets (or things to buy) but over the past few centuries it has failed to perform as expected. It is time for a change.

    There is indeed a parallel universe in the money system. If you change the money system in the way suggested then the denialists and doomsayers universes become irrelevant as we can increase wealth while reducing green house gas concentrations.

  12. If you dont think the IPA are anti feminist or misogynistic Monkey’s Uncle then try this quote

    “A New Broom Is there a collective noun for a
    gathering of radical feminists? If the word ‘coven’ comes to
    mind, then an article in the Berkeley Journal of
    Sociology may interest you. In it Tracy Luff argues that
    Wicce or Witchcraft could add a revolutionary spiritual
    dimension to feminism: “self-empowerment seems to be a
    major consequence of participation in Witchcraft. Such a
    belief in one’s abilities and strengths is necessary to
    maintain the high level of energy needed to keep a social
    movement such as feminism alive and growing. The coven
    as ‘support group’ also provides an outlet for frustration
    and feelings of alienation. Second, a feminist spirituality
    such as Wicce provides a positive alternative vision to
    counteract the negative effects of being continually
    confronted with the destructive nature of patriarchal
    culture. Through the creation of close, trusting, egalitarian,
    co-operative relationships with others, such as in the coven,
    Wicce works to create that positive vision in the’present.”

    Being feminist tantamount to practising Witchcraft huh? I dont think so.
    Enough on this – they are propagandists for all sorts of delusional backward thinking.
    IPA review 1991.

  13. The Murdoch press lacks all credibility.There are not too many degrees of separation between the editorial policy of the Australian and lunacy of Beck and Hannity on Fox news.

  14. Based on the quote it would seem that it is the Berkeley Journal of Sociology that is equating feminists and witches and the IPA is merely raising an eyebrow in bemusement.

  15. Alice:

    >Most custodial parents are still women

    True. Correct that unfair inequality then.

    >and it couldnt have escaped your notice that 20g >doesnt go far in Sydney. Imagine? Rupert or Ian >Moss only has to pay 20 g in child support. >Outrageous.

    Quite. Give them custody of the brats then and be done with it. Problem solved. Next.

  16. 67# That is my view too Antonio. Should happen more often. Deliver the children to the office and watch the laws change promptly. Thats what it would take.

  17. Terje#65 – not quite if you read the rest of the article but correct – that part was a comment drawn from the Berkely journal of Sociology (but no – it wasnt poking fun at covens but at feminism). There was an attack on matriarchal societies historically accusing them of eating their children amongst other things (interpret as – “you dont like what happens in patriarchal societies? Things could be worse.”). Never mind the nmatriarchal society probably existed 5000 years ago and were primitive tribes.

  18. jq I don’t understand why you answered conrad as you did. Surely the correct answer is that individual action on global warming is useless, so that individuals paying more for power that doesn’t contribute to global warming are wasting their money.

  19. Well – that post at 70 has disappeared at 9.27pm. Gone. Vanished. I will make one observation on the apalling state of Australian newspapers. Its the internet. Newspapers are becoming old fashioned news. People search for their jobs online. People search for their houses online. People search for their cars online. The advertisers are deserting newspapers and as they continue to desert the quality of journalism declines. Plagiarism and dogma becomes the order of the day. Did some other propaganda outfit write it ? (who cares if they researched it, or if its factual – its cheaper to plagiarise or just reprint what others submit).

    And you have all been wondering why Australian newspapers print utter rubbish? I guess we have to get used to it. Its because the days of newspapers are numbered and they are cutting costs.

    Its the internet.

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