Old men behaving badly (3rd repost)

I first posted this in 2011, reposted it in 2014 and again in 2019. Sadly, nothing changes, except that the old men keep getting stupider and behaving worse.

John Howard’s endorsement of Ian Plimer’s children’s version of his absurd anti-science tract Heaven and Earth has at least one good feature. I can now cut the number of prominent Australian conservatives for whom I have any intellectual respect down from two to one.[1] Howard’s acceptance of anti-science nonsense shows that, for all his ability as a politician, he is, in the end, just another tribalist incapable of thinking for himself. [2]

Although not all the tribal leaders are old men, an old, high-status man like Howard is certainly emblematic of Australian delusionism . Like a lot of old, high status men, he stopped thinking decades ago, but is even more confident of being right now than when he had to confront his prejudices with reality from time time. Like other delusionists, Howard has no scientific training, shows no sign of understanding statistics and almost certainly hasn’t read any real scientific literature, but nonetheless believes he can rank clowns like Plimer and Monckton ahead of the real scientists.

The situation in the US is similar but even more grimly amusing, with the sole truthteller in the entire Republican party, Jon Huntsman, recently reduced to waffling (in both US and UK/Oz senses of this term) because he briefly looked like having a chance to be the next non-Romney. This tribal mindlessness is reflected in the inability of the Republican Party, at a time when they ought to be unbackable favorites in 2012, to come up with a candidate who can convince the base s/he is one of them, but who doesn’t rapidly reveal themselves as a fool, a knave or both.

And, as evidence of the utter intellectual shamelessness of delusionism, you can’t beat the campaign against wind power, driven by the kinds of absurd claims of risk that would be mocked, mercilessly and deservedly, if they came from the mainstream environmental movement.

The global left is in pretty bad shape in lots of ways. Still, I would really hate to be a conservative right now.

fn1. Now (2014) down to zero. Turnbull has proved he lacks any real substance.

fn2. I’m not saying that all Australian conservatives are mindless tribalists. There’s a large group, epitomized by Greg Hunt and now Malcolm Turnbull, who understand the issues quite well, but are unwilling to speak up. Then there is a group of postmodern conservatives of whom Andrew Bolt is probably the best example, who have passed the point where concepts of truth or falsehood have any meaning – truth is whatever suits the cause on any given day.

28 thoughts on “Old men behaving badly (3rd repost)

  1. Old men behaving badly. Conservatives?

    What would Putin do?

    One week it’s the aerodynamic science of hypersonik 33,000km/hr ICBM deployment for the rendering of all into worm food the next, seen today, it’s aerodynamic infrasonik science riddled with worms:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/05/russia-announces-plan-to-use-the-advantages-of-climate-change
    Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change
    Kremlin website recognises global heating as a problem but lists ‘positive’ economic effects
    “…Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole, on average, and the two-year “first stage” plan is an indication the government officially recognises this as a problem, even though Vladimir Putin denies human activity is the cause.

    ..Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Recent floods and wildfires have been among the planet’s worst climate-related disasters.

    ..Putin, however, has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by emissions deriving from human activity, blaming it last month on some “processes in the universe”.

    ..He has also voiced scepticism on numerous occasions about solar and wind energy, expressing alarm about the dangers of turbines to birds and worms, causing them to “come out of the ground” by vibrating. While there is evidence that large wind-power installations can pose a risk to birds, known research does not suggest they harm worms.

    On Sunday, Russia’s meteorological service predicted temperatures up to 16C higher than normal for Monday and Tuesday, when Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas.”

  2. And Russia is not only warm, it’s on fire:

    This “Staggering Video Shows How Much of Earth Was Actually on Fire in 2019” (to November)
    https://www.sciencealert.com/this-alarming-video-shows-everywhere-the-world-was-burning-in-2019
    Between the start of 2019 and the end of November, CAMS estimates that 6,375 megatons of CO2 has been pushed into the atmosphere by wildfires across the globe.
    Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service Shows How 2019 Burned

    Australian Bushfires Seen From Space Latest Views – New South Wales / Queensland
    Space Videos Published on Dec 6, 2019
    Latest views from the Himawari 8 satellite – 3 different views from showing all of Australia to close up on New South Wales.
    The video covers the period 2nd December to the 6th December 2019 showing the ongoing bushfires that are devasting parts of New South Wales and Queensland, Australia

  3. Russia is not only warm, it’s on fire:
    This “Staggering Video Shows How Much of Earth Was Actually on Fire in 2019” (to November)
    sciencealert.com/this-alarming-video-shows-everywhere-the-world-was-burning-in-2019
    Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service Shows How 2019 Burned
    youtube.com/watch?v=9rsqpR0aGvY&feature=youtu.be
    Australian Bushfires Seen From Space Latest Views – New South Wales / Queensland
    Space Videos Published on Dec 6, 2019
    Latest views from the Himawari 8 satellite 2nd December to the 6th December 2019 showing the ongoing bushfires that are devasting parts of New South Wales and Queensland, Australia
    youtube.com/watch?v=Pedx3rmNwRU

  4. Tragi-comically, the (very) old bad man Don Aitkin is still railing against climate “alarmism” from his nursing home bed. After death, I imagine Don will be popping up at seances to scold the alarmism of feckless youth. **https://donaitkin.com/

  5. Don Aitkin used to be not just sensible but insightful on a whole range of subjects. He was a public intellectual in the best sense. Admittedly, this was a very long time ago, but still.

  6. It fits J.Q’s. thesis. Most old people cannot learn anything new. It is no surprise that a civilization is sclerotic when most of the people with wealth and power are sclerotic. The baby boomer generation has to die out before things can change. I’m a baby boomer by the way. It’s uncomfortable to realize that one is the problem.

  7. you are either a part of the problem or part of the solution.

    amazing how long hippydippytrippy took to sink in.

    look around—- yuppie vs hippy.

    which “lifestyle” physically paid off?

    organic fresh, etc,etc,etc,anyone?

  8. “I first posted this in 2011, reposted it in 2014 and again in 2019. Sadly, nothing changes, except that the old men keep getting stupider and behaving worse.” Let’s hope your grandkids not posting similar – in 2119

    I liked this one as “oh, the irony”. Too many good bad and plainly distopian histories here but an interesting thought experiment and great writing;

    “How Will History Books Remember the 2010s?

    “We asked 23 top historians to write the paragraph that will describe the past decade, 100 years from now.

    “Irony abounded
    David M. Kennedy is professor emeritus of history at Stanford University.

    “Still waters run deep. Sometimes turbulent waters do too. In the 21st century’s tumultuous second decade, several currents flowing out of the previous century’s closing years swelled to a torrential maelstrom that swept away the very foundations of the social and political order that had prevailed since World War II. Irony abounded.”…
    https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/12/27/how-will-history-books-remember-the-2010s-089796

  9. I checked Jo Nova’s denialist website today foir the first time in years and I note she still has tens of thousands of reactionary geriatric men falling at her feet.

    It is disheartening to note that Nova’s website has a very high Alexa ranking (I am assuming Alexa rankings are at least ball park accurate), far higher than sites like Real Climate.

  10. I worked on the climate change scene for a few years in the early 2010s. I came across a few climate science deniers; they truly were old farts, often with degrees in empirically based sciences. But they were not especially impressive in person. I couldn’t work out whether they truly believed their views or were expressing displaced right wing ideology, or maybe just tired.

    My own view was that until you had sat down with a competent climate change scientist and spent a week or so going through their models in detail (and given a reasonable technical background yourself) then you had no serious basis to opine.

  11. One of Morrison’s biggest failures in the bushfire crisis is an inability to deliver collective action. Collective action – a scary thing for tribalists – probably sounds like a communist plot to the dinosaurs instead of just acting collectively. And the cognitive dissonance must be huge – or not – “to put the national interest above party interests”.

    JQ said for the 3rd time; “…for all his ability as a politician, he [Howard] is, in the end, just another tribalist incapable of thinking for himself…”, as is Morrison.

    And Ikon picked the word; 
    Sclerotic “Becoming rigid and unresponsive; losing the ability to adapt.” ‘sclerotic management’

    “Partisan attacks instead of real leadership
    “The failings are compounded by the tendency of the Coalition government to treat even issues related to national emergencies as “political”, when what matters on the ground is survival.

    “This is the antithesis of what is needed to promote collective action. Morrison has struggled throughout the crisis to put the national interest above party interests. Too often, image management has prevailed over action…”
    https://theconversation.com/scott-morrisons-biggest-failure-in-the-bushfire-crisis-an-inability-to-deliver-collective-action-129437

  12. My own view was that until you had sat down with a competent climate change scientist and spent a week or so going through their models in detail (and given a reasonable technical background yourself) then you had no serious basis to opine.

    I only needed a high-school level science education to grasp that carbon dioxide has the property (in common with some but not all other gases) of being opaque to infra-red radiation, and the necessary implications of that fact.

  13. J-D: “I only needed a high-school level science education to grasp that carbon dioxide has the property (in common with some but not all other gases) of being opaque to infra-red radiation, and the necessary implications of that fact.”
    The only problem with that is that it doesn’t tell you whether the effect is important or miniscule. Spoiler alert: It turns out to be important.

  14. Yes indeed J-D. While my high school education wasn’t the best, just spending a little time online looking at YouTube lead me to videos showing experiments of this very effect in a closed transparent tank with a warm body at one end and an infrared camera at the other. Pump carbon dioxide into the tank and the warm body at the other end disappears from the image from the infrared camera (but not visible light). No need for a scientist to take me through the data and statistic to grasp this concept.

    And on the point of the post, one thing that is a hallmark of conservatism, especially the dinosaurs of the movement, is the necessity to never admit that you’re wrong. More widely, the fact that conservatives closely associate themselves to myth and superstition (i.e. religion) would suggest that they live their lives in a fact free world.

    This quote from Jeffrey Tayler sums up the requirements for political office and why in general conservatives are not suitable:

    The advances of science have rendered all vestigial belief in the supernatural more than just obsolete. They have shown it to indicate grave character flaws (among them, gullibility, a penchant for wish-thinking and an inability to process information), or, at the very least, an intellectual recklessness we should eschew, especially in men and women being vetted for public office. One who will believe outlandish propositions about reality on the basis of no evidence will believe anything, as is, simply put, not to be trusted.

    Apropos for our current PM.

    Also as Dawkins has said, science works, b#$!ches.

  15. J-D, News will be promoting this effect as sunscreen soon “being opaque to infra-red radiation”.

    Magic gas!

  16. This is what you do when when you are PM and “myth and superstition (i.e. religion) would suggest that they live their lives in a fact free world.”

    I like the fine print “… Offer excludes climate and energy policies. Your data may be used for marketing purposes”.

    And Smirko Smoko wildly flapping “Marketing 101” both fanning and putting out flames.

    JQ’s next book;
    “Marketing Lesson 102: How marketing works, and fail so badly”.

  17. https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2019/february/1548939600/james-boyce/devil-and-scott-morrison
    The Devil and Scott Morrison
    February 2019 By James Boyce
    What do we know about the prime minister’s Pentecostalism?

    “..It is much more likely that since Morrison must believe that he has been called by God to lead Australia, being voter-friendly is akin to being seeker-friendly: a divinely sanctioned means to a godly end. From a Pentecostal perspective, God knows that the enemy would exploit the fact that Australians would fear a too outwardly enthusiastic believer. Given Satan’s power in the world, those baptised in the Spirit understand that being careful about to whom their truth is conveyed

    …Whatever a leader’s belief system, there will always be many factors influencing public policy formation. But this does not make foundational faith irrelevant to a politician’s priorities and actions. No Pentecostal quarantines their religion in a churchy quarter of their being, let alone one who has been a passionate believer since his teens and in his first speech to parliament acknowledged Brian Houston, the co-founder of Hillsong, as a mentor.

    ..The unsurprising truth is that an informed understanding of the PM’s political career is impossible without considering his religion. His ability to maintain an unflinching self-belief and sense of righteousness through the dramatic U-turns that have characterised his rise to power reflects a central paradox of Pentecostal dogma and practice. Pentecostalism is in fact the perfect faith for a conviction politician without convictions.

    ..Belief in Satan and the imminent return of Christ also helps explain the prime minister’s less-than-passionate response to the most pressing environmental issue of our time. It is not surprising that Pentecostal activism about climate change is non-existent – the end of the known world is not a matter for mere mortals to decide.

    When Morrison proudly showed off a piece of coal in parliament, there is no reason to doubt that he believed what he held in his hand was a gift from God.

    It is also likely that Morrison has a level of scepticism about empirical science in general. One of the core doctrines of the ACC is that “all original life forms, including humanity, were made by the specific immediate creative acts of God … and that all biological changes which have occurred since creation are limited to variation within species”. In other words, humans and other animals were created by God in their essential form. If Morrison does not believe this, it should be easy enough to say so.”

  18. Yes, when I see Morrison showing his piousness in the Hillsong church, I think of Matthew 6 verses 1-6. Hopefully some of the candidates for the next presidential election will declare these as their favorite bible verses.

  19. “… Given Satan’s power in the world, those baptised in the Spirit understand that being careful about to whom their truth is conveyed is an essential strategy in the ongoing cosmic war.”

    It’s interesting to compare this with PM Abbott’s truthiness as received from his Jesuit and B. A. Santamaria schooling (and Joyce and Turnbull, and and and… the whole religionist political cabal)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_reservation
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casuistry
    //ronconte.com/2011/02/12/the-distinction-between-lying-and-mental-reservation/

  20. J-D: “I only needed a high-school level science education to grasp that carbon dioxide has the property (in common with some but not all other gases) of being opaque to infra-red radiation, and the necessary implications of that fact.”
    The only problem with that is that it doesn’t tell you whether the effect is important or miniscule. Spoiler alert: It turns out to be important.

    I only needed a high-school education to know how to spell ‘minuscule’.

    Anybody who said ‘Of course there’s an effect, the question is its magnitude’ would be giving away the whole denialist position. The effect has been measured; there’s not an alternative measure of it available.

  21. It’s not that hard to understand the basic mechanism, and then accept the implications as spelt out by scientists.

    It’s effectively impossible to scan a description of the basic mechanism, and discover a fundamental error that has been missed by thousands of scientists working full time for years, or to assess a “refutation” circulated through mass or social media, especially one that panders to your prejudices. That’s what denialists imagine they can do.

  22. You can accept the basic science but still want to know more more about the techniques, data, assumptions and judgments made in the modelling.

  23. If you accept the basic science then models etc are more of ‘when’ but not ‘if’.

    As it turns out, earlier models have been pretty consistent when compared with actual data.

  24. Yes unfortunately for the deniers the refutations have failed abysmally. But fear not, slander has been the tactic for a few years now. With the claim that the scientists are grant chasing, and money grubbing, the deniers have too easily forgotten that the fossil fuel industry are not doing for the sake of humanity and it is there where this talking point has probably originated. One person will pop up with the new claim and then it’s everywhere, not one of them questioning how the talking point might have started and the motivations behind it. The lack of skepticism from people who claim to be skeptics is telling.

  25. You can accept the basic science but still want to know more more about the techniques, data, assumptions and judgments made in the modelling.

    The overt literal meaning of this statement is so obviously true that there’s no good reason to make it explicity unless the purpose is to draw attention to some unstated implication. But what unstated implication? Wanting to know more is not, in this case at least, a justification for inaction. Enough is known to make inaction an unacceptable course.

  26. WordPress need to fix their engine so that if you accidentally put your e-mail in the name field it does not publish it.

  27. So until 2011 you respected John Howard. Is that correct? Amazing is all I can say. Not being a political junkie I had him figured as a crypto-fascist way back in 2005.

  28. You missed your chance:-

    ‘I’m not saying that all Australian conservatives are mindless tribalists. I’m saying that mindless Australian tribalists are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.’

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