Sceptic Against Standers v. Anthropogenic Global Warming Helpers

In my unrelenting effort to track down the latest outbreak of Lewandowskyitis …

I’ll start again.

[Lewandowsky has already shot the last bolt (not that Bolt) in his armoury when he mentioned having received anti-semitic hate mail. I was going to start one post mentioning the lengthening of Stephan's nose, in reference to Pinocchio, and then (luckily) I thought: “Lewandowsky – anti-semitism – nose... No no no.”]

A little self-censorship is no doubt a good thing; but Lewandowsky isn’t into self-censorship. He’s into censorship <i>tout court.</i>)

In my unrelenting effort to track down references to Lewandowsky’s valiant efforts to defend himself, I came across this article

http://www.dagelijksestandaard.nl/2014/04/de-klimaat-agw-helpers-zien-de-skeptic-tegenstanders-graag-als-complot

at the dagelijkse standaard, which is one of the world’s top 50,000 weblogs, according to Alexa, and has 80% of its readership in the Netherlands (not surprisingly) and 12% in the United Kingdom (surprisingly, given that the Wiki article exists only in Dutch).

[I'm a big believer in language learning. (Just as well, since I've been teaching English to foreigners for the past twenty years.) Dutch is one of the languages on the boundaries of my capabilities. I'm sure I could beat it with a little effort, but what's the point, when my faltering attempts to speak it are always met with a response in perfect English?]

[I once bought a cupboard in kit form which was on sale at a 75% reduction because the assembly instructions were in Dutch. “No problem,” I thought. “Look! Half the words are instantly recognisable!” It took me several hours to realise that the Dutch word “door” meant “through”.]

Dutch is possibly the last language of which it is possible to make racist remarks. I remember an article which claimed that it was impossible to translate Shakespeare, and supported the claim by citing the Dutch translation of “Hamlet, I am thy father’s ghost”, which came out as “Omelette, ik ben uw papaspook”.

[Why is that funny? Possibly because English is a bastard language, and, unconsciously, the English realise that this is a lucky situation for them. Lucky Bastards.]

De Dagelijkse Standaard quotes

http://joannenova.com.au/2012/08/lewandowsky-shows-skeptics-are-nutters-by-asking-alarmists-to-fill-out-survey/

so you get a feeling of where they’re coming from. Then

De klimaat AGW helpers zien de “skeptic” tegenstanders graag als complot”

translates easily (thanks Google translate) as “the climate agw helpers see the skeptic opponents happy as conspiracy”

Goh !! Maar had dan toch gewoon die rechtszaak afgewacht en uitgevochten als je voor je principes opkomt als flinke prof.. Of was je zaakje toch zo zwak?”

becomes:

Gosh! But had then just waited for that lawsuit and fought when you stand up for your principles as big prof. Whether your thing was so weak?”

Whether your thing was so weak.” Goh! I wish I’d said that.

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IPCC: We still have Paris

IPCC WG III is out, and reading through the comments at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/4/13/working-group-iii.html#comments

I stopped and smiled at this from TinyCO2:

Aunty BEEB and Granny Guardian are right behind you and if this year you’re not a success, there’s always COP21 in Paris next year.”

Next year is far away, and so many things might happen: a Russian invasion of the Ukraine; soaring gas prices; fracking; a ban on fracking; a winter cold spell, causing blackouts; a summer heat wave, causing George Monbiot to run naked through the streets of Camden flagellating himself (stop fantasising and get on with it…)

But Paris will still be Paris, and one of the few constants of European history is the capacity of the French for p*ssing off friends and enemies alike.

I’m no great shakes at political prophesy, but one thing I’m pretty sure about is that it will be the French who bring the European Union either to its knees or its senses. Greece, Portugal, and Spain have suffered more, but they have all experienced military dictatorships within living memory, and know that they are on parole. Italy is doing something under a charismatic leader. (Isn’t it amazing how many charismatic leaders Italy has produced in its 150 years of existence – many of them household names?)

The French president, who has done precisely nothing in the two years since his election, has a popularity rating of 18% (about the same as that of Brezhnev before the fall of the Soviet Union. But we don’t have a Berlin Wall to tear down, more’s the pity).

But we did have local elections last month and his Socialist party lost heavily, largely to the far right National Front.

I live in a town which has been in the hands of the same family, father and son, for – well – generations. The three main leftwing parties, the Socialists, the Left Front, and the Communists, wisely decided to amalgamate, which didn’t stop four other leftwing parties from standing – two Trotskyists, an ecologist and a Youf Party. The neo-fascist Front National came top, and the leftwing alliance, which just scraped through to the second round with a bare 10% of the votes, nobly desisted, recommending its voters to vote in the second round for the corrupt rightwing party, which I duly did.

(All parties are corrupt in France, but this could only happen in our town. In the previous elections a party official was found with his socks stuffed full of false ballot papers. It’s warm here in the South of France in May. People don’t wear socks. The election was annulled and in the following bye-election the governing party won by an even bigger majority. People reasoned that the opposition had brought the town into disrepute by making a fuss about the sock-stuffing..)

I love voting in France. The last time I voted was the first time European nationals were allowed to vote in local and European elections. The voting station was full of gypsy ladies decked out in their Sunday best. Just four people were indicated as having voted before me on the register open on the desk, and two of them had signed with an X. (The town where I live is reputed to have the largest sedentary gypsy population in Western Europe. And they’re good voters, as two generations of mayors can attest).

Of course, when I went to vote, they couldn’t find my name. I was voter number 000001, but on the supplementary list. So I went and stood in the queue at the problem desk, which has a hotline to the Town Hall. The guy in front of me was a gypsy, and the official behind the desk was patiently explaining: ”I’m sorry Monsieur X, but you’ve just come out of prison and you have not yet been accorded your voting rights.” To which the guy replied: “If I can’t vote, then my wife’s not voting either!”, which didn’t stop the mayor from getting elected…

But anyway, they sorted out my problem and found the supplementary register at the bottom of their chest of voting paraphernalia – an imposing volume one metre square when opened, with just two names, mine and some Dutch bloke. I duly voted and signed.

Next Sunday was the second round of voting, and as I entered the voting station the lady behind the desk nudged her neighbour and said: “It’s him!” By the time I emerged from the voting booth, they had the supplementary register proudly open for me to sign.

Media commenters this year were unanimous that socialist voters were fed up with the rightwing policies enacted by Socialist President François Hollande, so he did the only decent thing – he sacked his prime minister and appointed in his place the most rightwing member of the socialist party – Manuel Valls (This is practically a carbon copy of what happened in Italy, except that the Italian president is a 95 year-old figurehead, whereas the French president has powers which make Barak Obama look like an eight stone weakling.. By the way, I haven’t seen the news for three hours. Have we declared World War Three yet?)

And the new prime minister – like Matteo Renzi in Italy – has appointed a honed down cabinet, with some new faces, including Ségolène Royal as Minister of Ecology.

Now Ségolène Royal was the previous unsuccessful socialist candidate for the presidency seven years ago – unsuccessful, it has been widely suggested – because the socialist party apparatus, under its secretary, the current President François Hollande, sabotaged her campaign.

François Hollande is the father of Ségolène Royal’s four children.

Then there are the ecologists, the members of the party “Europe Ecology the Greens” who officially support the government, and are the recipients of 18 grace and favour seats

in parliament thanks to the socialist party, but who walked out of the government, (not because of any personal animosity towards Manuel Valls, of course, but because of his policies, which he hadn’t yet announced).

The Minister of Energy and Climate Change in Britain has certain well-defined responsibilities, such as keeping the lights on while ensuring that the planet doesn’t heat up unbearably – a heavy charge for a junior minister in a second-rate power.

The French Minister of Ecology has no such limitations. She has a minimal budget, and therefore zero power, but she has the responsibility for keeping France looking nice.

France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear, which is low on CO2, but also unpopular with the public, who think they prefer wind turbines and solar.

The state owned (illegally of course, because, remember, socialist policies of state ownership are illegal under European law) EDF has been happy, so far, to take on a certain percentage of unprofitable wind and solar energy programmes because they can afford to, given the money they make selling nuclear energy to the Brits and others. Hence the numerous windfarms here in the south of France, which do nothing but kill a few eagles and keep the Greens happy.

The policy of the new Minister of Ecology is to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear, resist fracking, and go for renewable energy. There are 40,000 communes in France, 39,000 of which (my estimate) have a barren hillside somewhere they’re wiling to let out to a windmill company.

The country’s energy supply is still in the hands of the EDF, a nationalised company run by an intellectual élite educated under a system installed by Napoleon. “L’École des Mines” don’t just turn out coal miners. Like “Les Arts et Métiers” (the school my son went to, I’m proud to say) they prepare the scientific élite of a proud country for the job of running a modern technologically advanced society.

And confronting them are the Greens, a party which scores 3% in national elections, but which until recently merited two seats in government, and who have 80% of the population behind them when they demand the closing of France’s nuclear power stations.

Today the Leftwing parties called for a demonstration against the austerity programme of the leftwing government. Only about a quarter of a million people turned up, which is pretty feeble in French terms. It takes a demonstration of 2 or 3 million to get rid of a prime minister, something which only happens about once every 10 years – but just wait. Next week the government will be announcing details of the 50 billion euro cuts demanded by Brussels and Berlin, and the real conflict will begin.

In Paris in  2015 each French politician will be trying to make the environment his or her own. François Hollande, leader of one of the world’s top powers, will be demonstrating his commitment to the green cause in his own way. And next to him on the world stage, Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, failed candidate for the post of president, and mother of his four children, will be demonstrating her commitment in hers.

Meanwhile, I don’t doubt, the quarter of a million who demonstrated today will be still there. Their leaders in the parties of the left are among the most fervent defenders of the green cause of course. But frankly, I don’t expect reductions in CO2 emissions to rate high in the priorities of left-leaning voters contemplating the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017. This summer or the next promise to be hot, but it won’t be about global warming.

Posted in France Italy & the rest | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Lew’s Cannons

I’ve been meaning to write up the developments in the Lewandowsky saga, but I’ve been so busy discussing it, e.g. at

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rfSpeech.html#comments

and at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/4/9/ethical-confirmations.html

that I haven’t had time. Briefly, for anyone who hasn’t been following the story at the above sites, plus ClimateAudit, (where Steve McIntyre has made startling discoveries about the ethics applications for Lew’s two papers) See e.g.

http://climateaudit.org/2014/04/07/the-ethics-application-for-lewandowskys-fury/

Wattsupwiththat e.g. at

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/04/journal-takes-lewandowsky-and-his-supporters-to-task-over-threats-over-retracted-recursive-fury-paper/

and JoNova’s; e.g. at:

http://joannenova.com.au/2014/04/journal-admits-lewandowsky-paper-retracted-because-it-failed-twice/

here’s a resumé of the story so far:

- Lewandowsky’s “Recursive Fury” paper has been withdrawn by the journal Frontiers in Psychological Science

- The news was announced in a scoop by Readfearn at DeSmogBlog, who also had a previously unknown bunch of FOI material from UWA

- Readfearn spoke of “threats” to the publishers, mentioning McIntyre, and linking to my blog. This link was picked up by a number of articles, including ones by Nuccitelli at the Guardian (which spoke of “bullying”)

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/mar/21/contrarians-bully-climate-change-journal-retraction

and by “Recursive Fury” peer reviewer Elaine McKewon at

http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2014/04/reviewer-journal-wilts-under-climate-of-intimidation/

and at

https://theconversation.com/the-journal-that-gave-in-to-climate-deniers-intimidation-25085

- I complained to the Guardian and socialsciencespace pointing out that Readfearn’s comment was defamatory (comments were closed at the Conversation) and the link to DeSmogBlog was broken at both sites. The editor from socialsciencespace sent me a polite and conciliatory letter. The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor has neither corrected their false and defamatory article, nor acknowledged receipt of my complaint.

- Frontiers issued a number of contradictory statements, but the latest, at

http://www.frontiersin.org/blog/Retraction_of_Recursive_Fury_A_Statement/812

makes it clear that there were no threats, and no intimidation.

- Lewandowsky has five articles on the subject so far, the latest of which is at

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rfSpeech.html#comments

One of his lines of defence is that “Fury” is the most popular paper ever at “Frontiers”. He’s also boasting about how the paper is being hosted by the University of Western Australia now, and quoting the UWA’s legal person as saying “Bring it on, dogshit deniers, we’re insured!” (or words to that effect).

- Foxgoose, who was one of two plaignants (the other was Jeff Condon) to get changes to Recursive Fury before its brief existence as a peer reviewed paper at “Frontiers in Psychological Science” is currently arguing at Bishop Hill aænd at Shapingtomorrowsworld for a class action for libel against Lewandowsky and/or the University of Western Australia.

- two editors have resigned from “Frontiers” in support of Lewandowsky. This is less of a story than it may seem, since apparently, according to a commenter somewhere (where?) everyone and their kangaroo can be an editor at Frontiers.

However, just for fun, and to give an idea of the intellectual level of the opposition, I reproduce in full from

http://bjoern.brembs.net/2014/04/resigning-from-frontiers/

the post of one of the resigning editors:

__________________________________________

Recursive Fury: Resigning From Frontiers

In: News • Tags: contrarians, delusionals, unpersuadables

Last month, I was alerted to an outrageous act of a scientific journal caving in to pressure from delusionals demanding the science about their publicly displayed delusions be hidden from the world: the NPG-owned publisher Frontiers retracted a scientific article, with which they could not find anything wrong: The article attracted a number of complaints which were investigated by the publisher. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article.

Essentially, this puts large sections of science at risk. Clearly, every geocentrist, flat earther, anti-vaxxer, creationist, homeopath, astrologer, diviner, and any other unpersuadable can now feel encouraged to challenge scientific papers in a court. No, actually, they don’t even have to do that, they only have to threaten court action and publishers will cave in and retract your paper.

As if we needed any more evidence that publishers are bad for science.

Now even the supposedly “good guys” show that the are not really on the side of science. Instead of at least waiting for a law suit to be filed and perhaps at least attempting to stand their ground (as Simon Singh did), they just took the article down in what can only be called anticipatory obedience. This is no way to serve science.

A week or two ago, I talked with a Frontiers representative on the phone and she explained a few things to me which prompted me to read the paper in question, so I could make up my own mind. After reading the paper, any of the attempted explanations on the phone rang hollow: I’m certainly not a lawyer, but if taking publicly posted comments and citing them in a scientific paper, discussing them under a given hypothesis which has a scientific track record and plenty of precedence constitutes a cause for libel or defamation lawsuits, it is certainly the law and not the paper which is at fault. It is quite clear, why the content of the paper may feel painful to those cited in it, but as long as “conspirational ideation” is not an official mental disorder, I cannot see any defamation. If you don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist, don’t behave like one publicly on the internet. Therefore, after reading the paper, in my opinion, Frontiers ought to have supported their authors just as their home institution (UWA) is supporting them as their employees.

As the Frontiers representative did not disclose any details and what she was able to disclose was both very general, hence not very convincing, and I promised not to disclose even that, one can only speculate what the motivations and considerat1ions might have been at Frontiers as to why they decided to throw their authors under the bus.

Clearly, if legal problems are cited, it’s always money that’s at stake, I’d be surprised if this were controversial. I have heard through the grapevine that Frontiers apparently may have felt some pressure recently, to make more money, to publish more papers. I was told that they have sent out literally millions of spam emails to addresses harvested from, e.g. PubMed, soliciting manuscript submissions. Obviously, a costly libel or defamation suit in the UK would not have been a positive on the balance sheets.

Alas, as much fun all of this speculation may be, it is not really relevant to my conclusion: Frontiers retracted a perfectly fine (according to their own investigation) psychology paper due to financial risks for themselves. It can only be seen as at best a rather lame excuse or at worst rather patronizing, if Frontiers were to claim to be protecting their authors from lawsuits by removing the ‘offending’ article. This is absolutely no way to “empower researchers in their daily work“. In the coming days I will send resignation letters to the Frontiers journals to which I have donated my free time for a range of editorial duties. Obviously, I will complete the tasks I have already started, but I will not accept any new tasks at Frontiers – at least not until they show more support of their authors.

Posted in Stephan Lewandowsky | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Bird in the Ear of the Episcopal Rhinoceros

Like all other British bloggers, I am parasitically dependent on Bishop Hill, eternally grateful to His Grace for a diet of numerous tasty tidbits, and for being the source of a steady trickle of new readers. Sometimes I try to return the favour, if it’s only by pointing out one or two interesting ticks in his outer orifices.

While the main Bishop Hill blog is mostly solid news, the Discussion page allows readers to release the bees in their bonnets (to vary the biological metaphor). It’s a rich source of information, often from specialists, but also a sounding board for all sorts of hunches, opinions and speculations.

One idea I launched there a while ago was the desirability of forming a proper society of climate sceptics. My thinking was strategic – cynical even. Organs like the BBC will only deal with spokesmen who represent something – either a body of experts, in the case climate scientists, or representatives of established institutions. (For us, that means Lord Lawson, as a member of the House of Lords and head of the GWPF, and the odd foreign scientist like Plimer or Curry, and -very rarely – an outsider like the blogger Andrew Montford.

(I remember Mary Whitehouse and her 50,000-strong National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, who campaigned vociferously against the stream of satire, cynicism, and filth that the BBC was emitting in the 60s and 70s, and the fact that, despite her evident popularity, the BBC refused to treat with her because she hadn’t been elected by her Association, which was therefore, in the eyes of the Beeb, nothing more than a glorified fan club).

I argued that a properly constituted association of climate sceptics, with a few thousand members and a modest membership fee to cover travel expenses for its spokesman from Scotland or wherever to the BBC studios, would necessarily be considered a valid interlocutor on climate subjects. When AR5 WGII came out for instance, the editor of the Today programme would phone them up and say “What do you sceptics think?” and our spokesmen would reply. Of course, Bob Ward would complain: “What about me? I’m a qualified PR man with a salary paid by a very rich and important hedge fund manager!” and the Today editor would say: “Get stuffed.”

My suggestion was roundly rejected by the majority of commenters. It’s time has not come. Lots of people don’t like my style, which is a fact which I consider to be an argument in favour of my proposal. The whole point of associations is to link together people who wouldn’t naturally bond. I think of the International Working Men’s Association formed by a dozen British trade unionists and an eccentric foreign journalist called Karl Marx. You may prefer to consider the members of your local Rotary Club.

Anyway, there are lots of other ideas on offer at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/

and I’ll just mention three which have caught my attention recently, and note that what they have in common is that they illustrate the fact that we sceptics are beginning to think strategically. People are giving a lot of thought to how to win the argument, or at least how to advance it, in a climate which is becoming less tolerant of alternative ideas, not more, despite the evident flaws in the consensus position.

Robin Guenier, at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/post/2313902

argues that “current climate policy is pointless – we need a new approach”. None of us would disagree with that, I imagine. What Robin proposes is that we should drop the discussion about the science (which we can’t win) and concentrate on the Realpolitik. Robin and I frequently cross paths on threads at sites varying from New Left Project and New Statesman to some weird site (Robin will no doubt provide the address) financed by Middle Eastern airlines and hotel chains, evidently out to attract the profitable Green Jetsetting International Conference market. The fact that we don’t always agree doesn’t stop us from both being labelled as part of a conspiracy, but that’s consensus for you.

Stewgreen at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/post/2318787

is discussing the Psychology of Climate Belief/Dis-belief, and, perhaps as a spinoff, Jiminy Cricket at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/post/2320846

proposes a discussion of “Warmism, a new form of global cult?” Both threads allow for a discussion of the analysis of the nature of envoironmentalism / climate catastrophism which goes far beyond the usual political namecalling. This is the project which Ben Pile has been pushing at Climate Resistance for years, and which I hope to begin to tackle.

There are many other interesting discussions, but if I mention these three, it’s because what they have in common is a desire to think strategically about how to win a long and arduous battle. This is not about saying “Ha, ha, we’re right and you’re wrong! Look at Hadcrut / AR5 SPM / the latest nonsense from Lewandowsky / Bob Ward / Lord Deben”. It’s about thinking seriously about the nature of the environmentalist / catastrophist argument, and about how to combat it.

I’ve had enough interactions with people here, at BishopHill, at Climate Resistance and elsewhere to know what a bright and motivated lot we are. We can win if we interact and unite our forces. Exactly how this will happen is a mystery to me, and I suspect to everyone else, but the force is there. May it be with you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Lewandowsky: My Part in his Downfall

Steve McIntyre has had a look at the complex dance of the emails between the University of Western Australia and the publishers of his “Recursive Fury” paper “Frontiers in Psychological Science” at

http://climateaudit.org/2014/03/21/lewandowskys-fury/

Now he’s examined the investigation by UWA into the ethics of the Moon Hoax paper

http://climateaudit.org/2014/03/24/lewandowsky-ghost-wrote-conclusions-of-uwa-ethics-investigation-into-hoax/

and has discovered that the key conclusion was written by Lewandowsky himself. Steve ends his article with a tantalising: “Today’s note pertains only to the ethics approval of Hoax. The circumstances surrounding the ethics application for Fury are much worse and will be discussed separately”.

There’s also an excellent article on other aspeccts of Lewandowsky’s psychology by Hilary Ostrov at

http://hro001.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/frontears-of-mediocrity-lewandowsky-mann-on-the-march/

In a normal world Lewandowsky’s career would now be over. But in a normal world his career would never have begun. He wouldn’t be a professor. He wouldn’t have been enticed to Bristol, one of the world’s top thirty universities, with a five figure sum and a gold medal from the Royal Society. He wouldn’t see his work praised in the Guardian, the Telegraph, the New York Times and the New Yorker, and his conclusion that climate sceptics are conspiracy theorists wouldn’t be cited by government ministers. He just wouldn’t matter.

It seems clear that, in addition to the matter of ethical clearance, and the supposed investigation by UWA, the complaints made to Psychological Science (publishers of “Moon Hoax”) and to Frontiers in Psychological Science (publishers of “Recursive Fury”) were almost certainly never examined. In both cases the publishers justified the delay in reporting on these complaints on the need to consult Lewandowsky and his fellow authors. What was the nature of this “consultation”?

Publishers are private companies and aren’t subject to Freedom of Information requests. TerryS in a comment at the first Climate Audit article linked above makes the excellent suggestion of seeing whether the can be forced to divulge information under Data Protection Acts. This would certainly seem to be a possibility for “Recursive Fury” where four of us are named in the paper, and dozens more in the supplemental material. I’ve hooked out the Swiss data protection act here http://www.dataprotection.eu/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Main.CH

and will get round to poring through it some time soon.

In the meantime, I reproduce my correspondence with “Frontiers” below, so that others can consult it. (I’ve corrected some spelling mistakes and one incorrect URL). If any other complainants to either publishers would like to do the same, it might be handy. I can reproduce it here or link to it.

_______________________________________________

23/03/13 From: g.chambers To: info@frontiersin.org

I have tried unsuccessfully to post this comment at http://www.frontiersin.org/Personality_Science_and_Individual_Differences/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00073/abstract

To the editors, Frontiers in Personality Science:

In table 3 of this paper, I am mentioned by name and identified as having been the first to have mentioned in public Recursive Conspiracist Hypothesis number 4 - namely that Sceptic blogs were only contacted after a delay. This hypothesis is quite true, as Professor Lewandowsky has admitted. Nonetheless, the fact of having been the first to make this accusation leads to me being accused of exhibiting the following symptoms of conspiracist ideation: nefarious intent, nihilistic skepticism,  “must be wrong”; “no accident”>, and unreflexive counterfactual thinking.

From the definitions of these criteria given in the paper I extract the following:

Nefarious Intent: “… A corollary of the first criterion is the pervasive self-perception and self-presentation among conspiracy theorists as the victims of organized persecution. The theorist typically considers herself, at least tacitly, to be the brave antagonist of the nefarious intentions of the conspiracy; that is, the victim is also a potential hero.”

Nihilistic Skepticism: “The conspiracy theorist refuses to believe anything that does not fit into the conspiracy theory. Thus, nothing is at it seems, and all evidence points to hidden agendas or some other meaning that only the conspiracy theorist is aware of.”

Must be Wrong”“The underlying lack of trust and exaggerated suspicion contribute to a cognitive pattern whereby specific hypotheses may be abandoned when they become unsustainable, but those corrections do not impinge on the overall abstraction that `something must be wrong’ and the `official’ account must be based on deception.”

No Accident”: “To the conspiracy theorist, nothing happens by accident … Thus, small random events are woven into a conspiracy narrative and reinterpreted as indisputable evidence for the theory.”

Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking: “Contrary evidence is often interpreted as evidence for a conspiracy [...] the stronger the evidence against a conspiracy, the more the conspirators must want people to believe their version of events.”

These definitions clearly identify me as being irrational and paranoid, and are therefore defamatory. I therefore request you to withdraw this paper. 

I note further that , in the section on hypothesis (4) (“Skeptic” blogs contacted after delay) in which I am named, only one piece of evidence is produced, and that is a quote from Lucia Liljegren. If you don’t withdraw the paper, you might at least correct it and replace my name with that of Dr Liljegren.

However, that won’t absolve the authors of having defamed me. If we turn to hypothesis (3) “Presentation of intermediate data”, we see that the person accused of having been the first to pronounce it is Steve McIntyre. Despite the fact that this hypothesis also turned out to be true, it leads him to being accused of exhibiting the same irrational and paranoid tendencies as me, (except for “No Accident”).

The link provided 

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/ccc2.html#22

leads to a comment by Dr McIntyre (comment 8) on an article by Professor Lewandowsky. However, Dr McIntyre’s comment is not about the presentation of intermediate data, but about four entirely different subjects. The reference to the presentation of intermediate data is in two previous comments by me to the same article (comments 3 and 6). In Comment 5, a commenter notes that I had already made the same point in a comment at SkepticalScience, a blog run by second author John Cook, which for some reason was not included among the blogs analysed, despite being one of the “Principal web sites involved in blogosphere’s response to the publication of LOG12” (title of table 2).

One reason for not considering SkepticalScience, despite the fact that this blog is widely regarded as one of the leading blogs commenting on climate scepticism, can perhaps be found in the paper, where, under the heading of “Potential Limitations”, it is explained why the content analysis of blogs was entrusted to authors Cook and Marriott:

Two of the present authors also contributed to LOG12, and the present analysis may therefore be biased by a potential conflict of interest. This possibility cannot be ruled out [...].  [B]ecause data collection (via internet search) was conducted by two authors who were not involved in analysis or report of LOG12, the resulting “raw” data – available in the online supplementary material – cannot reflect a conflict of interest involving the LOG12 authors.”

It might have been wise to indicate that:

1) the two authors whose data collection “cannot reflect a conflict of interest” both run blogs which concentrate on countering the views of sceptics (SkepticalScience and WatchingtheDeniers) 

2) John Cook of Skeptical Science is coauthor with first author Stephan Lewandowsky of “The Debunking Handbook”; and

3)SkepticalScience was the scene of some of the most lively debates about(LOG12) and of at least one of the first occurrences of a conspiracist hypothesis.

 I therefore suggest that, in the interest of accuracy, the authors replace the name of Dr McIntyre with mine, (since I do believe that my comment at Skeptical Science was the first to raise this hypothesis, the truth of which has been confirmed by Professor Lewandowsky) and my name with that of Lucia Liljegren.

I haven’t looked at the attributions of earliest mention to the other hypotheses mentioned in table 3. However, I noticed that a quote attributed to me is false, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are other errors.

Finally,  I would like to point out that by the time Cook and Marriott began their content analysis (August 28), the paper (LOG12) had already been the subject of numerous comments on blogs for at least five weeks, beginning with

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/climate-change-denial-_b_1686437.html

19 July 2012 (400+ comments)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jul/27/climate-sceptics-conspiracy-theorists

29 July 2012 (1300+ comments)

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/post/1904675

30 July 2012 (70 comments)

http://manicbeancounter.com/2012/07/30/lewandowsky-et-al-2012-motivated-rejection-of-science-part-1/

http://manicbeancounter.com/2012/07/30/lewandowsky-et-al-2012-motivated-rejection-of-science-part-2/

30 July 2012

http://talkingclimate.org/are-climate-sceptics-more-likely-to-be-conspiracy-theorists/. 

(August 2 2012)

The claim to have identified the earliest occurrences of the conspiracist ideation starting on 28 August is therefore moot. 

I therefore respectfully suggest that the wisest course might be to withdraw this paper.

27/03/13

Dear Mr. Chambers,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are taking this email very seriously and will temporarily remove the article while we investigate your claims. Please feel free to forward us any further information that will assist us with our investigation. 

Best,

Adriana Timperi Senior Editorial Assistant

On behalf of: Carina Paraíso Journal Manager

Frontiers| Psychology Editorial Office

27/03/13

Dear Ms Timperi

Many thanks for your letter. I’ve just noticed that the article is still up on your site.

With respect to your request for further information:

There has been much criticism of of both this paper (“Recursive Fury”), and of the original paper (LOG12) on the internet. I have started to compile a chronological list of websites discussing the two papers on my blog at

http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/lews-talk-costs-libels/

References to the “Recursive Fury” paper begin on 5 February 2013.

 Specific criticisms of the paper are too numerous to mention, and often difficult to enunciate because they demand a familiarity  with the original LOG12 paper, which still hasn’t been published, and in particular with the raw data, which is available here:

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2012/8/31/lewandowskys-data.html 

 The “Recursive Fury” paper is in two parts. The first part is a review of the literature on “Conpiracist Ideation”. This part has received no attention on the internet, as far as I know. I would just note that it relies heavily on one source: Keeley 1999 “Of Conspiracy Theories”, which is an epistemological study appearing in a philosophical journal. 

It is the second part, involving content analysis of blogs, which provoked criticism on the internet. I wouldn’t expect you to wade through all the articles listed on my blog, but I would recommend at least that you look  at :

1) the criticisms under the abstract on your website by A Scott, who has experience in conducting surveys, and whose original criticisms of LOG12 at SkepticalScience and Shapingtomorrowsworld have largely been censored, I believe. You might like to contact him directly. 

2) the comments under the article at

http://talkingclimate.org/are-climate-sceptics-more-likely-to-be-conspiracy-theorists/

This article, and most of the comments, appeared fully a month before the beginning or the “real-time” content analysis by Cook and Marriott, and the comments contain many of the substantive criticisms which were later used as evidence of “conspiracist ideation”. Note also that the author of the article, Dr Adam Corner, who is also a psychology researcher interested in climate scepticism, engages in constructive dialogue in the comments with us “sceptics”. 

 Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any specific questions. 

Yours Geoff Chambers

Dear Mr. Chambers,

Further to my email regarding your concerns of the Lewandowsky. I would just like to reassure you that we are still investigating into the matter and would like to know whether it would be okay for you if we forwarded along your concerns to the authors? Thank you for letting us know. 

Best,

Adriana Timperi Senior Editorial Assistant

On behalf of: Carina Paraíso Journal Manager

Frontiers| Psychology Editorial Office

02/04/13

Certainly you may forward it

grazie mille Geoff Chambers

03/04/13

Dear Mr. Chambers,

Thank you for your various emails on this subject.  You have made a general allegation of defamation; to allow Frontiers to investigate any claim of defamation we need to have specific references to quotes from the article, together with specific explanations of why you consider it or them to be defamatory.  Such latter explanations should include, where relevant, references to any other materials which support your allegation.

You will understand that Frontiers is neutral in this matter and simply wishes to establish the facts.  We need to handle this matter swiftly and must therefore request that your detailed response, in a form to be forwarded to the authors, reach me by Friday 5th April at 1400 CET.  If we have not received your materials by that time (which represents approximately three days since our original request) we will in principle have to proceed on the basis that you do not intend to proceed with your allegations.  

Please let me know if you have any further queries.

Many thanks and best regards

Adriana Timperi Senior Editorial Assistant

On behalf of: Carina Paraíso Journal Manager

5/04/13

Dear Ms Timperi

I enclose a final complaint, just in time, I hope. Have a good weekend.

Yours  Geoff Chambers

Recursive Fury Supplementary Complaint, concerning the criteria for inclusion of  blog material.

I enclose two paragraphs from the explanation of the content analysis carried out by Cook and Marriott, in the 3recursive Fury” paper, with my comments in italics. (Bold mine).

The second phase of the search traced the response to LOG12 in the blogosphere. An on-going web search in real time was conducted by two of the authors (J.C. and M.H.M.) during the period August-October 2012. 

In fact the research began on the 29th of August, thus missing all the unanswered questions and criticisms raised during July and August, (see list of relevant blogs below)

This daily search used Google Alerts to detect newly published material matching the search term “Stephan Lewandowsky.” 

Anthony Watts at Wattsupwiththat and Tom Curtis at SkepticalScience misspelt his name “Lewandowski”. Not everyone uses first name and surname. Bloggers frequently used the nickname  “Lew”, particularly in referring to his “Lew paper”. The search term was clearly inadequate for picking up relevant material.

If new blog posts were discovered that featured links to other relevant blog posts not yet recorded, these were also included in the analysis. To ensure that the collection of hypotheses pertaining to LOG12 was exhaustive, Google was searched for links to the originating blog posts (i.e., first instances of a recursive theory), thereby detecting any further references to the original hypothesis or deviations from it.

How can the research be considered “exhaustive”, when no references earlier than 29th August are recorded in the supplementary material?

 Although the second phase of the search encompassed the entire (English-speaking) web, it became apparent early on that the response of the blogosphere was focused around a number of principal sites. To formally identify those sites, we began by analyzing the 30 most-frequently read “skeptic” websites, as identified by Alexa rankings. Alexa is a private company, owend by Amazon, that collects data on web browsing behavior and publishes web traffic reports for the higher trafficked sites. This enables comparison of the relative traffic of websites covering similar topics.

What was the point of a “search encompassed the entire (English-speaking) web”, if it was thereafter arbitrarily limited to 30 sites chosen for their popularity? Much of the spadework of criticising this paper was carried out by relatively obscure sites. That’s how the blogosphere works. Notrickszone is an English speaking site based in Germany which publicised and linked to the paper 29th July. On the same day the Guardian newspaper published an article by Dr Adam Corner, a psychology researcher favourable to Lewandowsky’s work, which attracted 1354 comments in three days. This article was reprinted at Dr Corner’s government sponsored site Talkingclimate on 2nd August, and the 42 comments contain already a large part of the “conspiracist “ criticisms of which Cook and Marriott claim to have  discovered in their internet search starting 29th of August. The first attempt at analysing the results, obtained by one Katabasis, was reported by Manicbeancounter on the 30th July.

Immediately following the discussion of the criteria for inclusion of data, commented above, we read this:

We derived six criteria from the existing literature to permit classification of hypotheses pertaining to LOG12 as potentially conspiracist (see Table 3). Our criteria were exclusively psychological and hence did not hinge on the validity of the various hypotheses. This approach follows philosophical precedents that have examined the epistemology of conspiratorial theorizing irrespective of its truth value (e.g., Keeley, 1999; Sunstein & Vermeule, 2009). The approach also avoids the need to discuss or rebut the substance of any of the hypotheses.”

The majority of the hypotheses discussed were true, or probably true, or (in the case of the question of whether certain bloggers had been blocked from Lewandowsky’s and Cook’s sites, which was aired for an hour or two) at least likely. By defining their criteria as “exclusively psychological” and by “follow[ing] philosophical precedents that have examined the epistemology of conspiratorial theorizing irrespective of its truth value”, the authors manage to define perfectly legitimate requests for information and perfectly valid criticism as conspiracist ideation. 

For the love of science, withdraw this article.

list of blog articles referred to above, appearing before the content analysis:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jul/27/climate-sceptics-conspiracy-theorists

http://notrickszone.com/2012/07/29/australian-psychologists-claim-climate-science-skeptics-are-the-moon-landing-conspiracy-theorists/ 

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/post/1904675

http://manicbeancounter.com/2012/07/30/lewandowsky-et-al-2012-motivated-rejection-of-science-part-1/

http://manicbeancounter.com/2012/07/30/lewandowsky-et-al-2012-motivated-rejection-of-science-part-2/

http://talkingclimate.org/are-climate-sceptics-more-likely-to-be-conspiracy-theorists/

08/04/13

Dear Mr. Chambers,

Thank you again for your email and having consented forwarding of your message to Prof. Lewandowsky. I would like to confirm that your complaint has been sent to Prof. Lewandowsky, who has agreed to treat complaints forwarded to him confidentially and not to publish them or comment on them publicly.  He has agreed to this but has pointed out that they may become public through other channels such as FOI requests or through the university’s complaints procedure.

 Please allow some time for this investigation to be carried out. Thank you for your understanding. 

 Best Regards,

 Adriana Timperi Senior Editorial Assistant

On behalf of: Carina Paraíso Journal Manager

 

Posted in Stephan Lewandowsky, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Looser Screws than Lew’s

Just as I was planning on dropping blogging and going back to a normal life watching ballet on my new big screen computer and drawing sexy super-heroines, Lewandowsky’s “Recursive Fury” paper gets retracted and I’ve been busy commenting and networking at Retractionwatch, Shapingtomorrowsworld and elsewhere. If you haven’t been following the story, start at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/20/flushed-away.html

and

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/21/the-lew-roll-1.html#comments

and follow the trail, being sure to take in

http://climateaudit.org/2014/03/21/lewandowskys-fury/

Meanwhile, at

http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/20/science-journal-retracts-paper-showing-how-climate-change-sceptics-were-conspiracy-theorists-after-sceptics-shout

Graham Readfearn explains that Lew can’t reveal the nature of the complaints made to him because he’s signed a gagging order

While DeSmogBlog understands the authors of the paper have signed confidentiality agreements preventing them from discussing the nature of the complaints, FOI documents and pre-existing blog posts show how the journal was facing accusations that the paper was defamatory”.

Which doesn’t stop Lew from defending himself vigorously at

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rf1.html#3166

and in a forty minute video rant at

https://vimeo.com/89099432

Dana Nuccitelli wades in at the Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/mar/21/contrarians-bully-climate-change-journal-retraction

under the headline “Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper”. Nuccitelli gives no evidence of bullying, but instead links to Readfearn’s article, which quotes my complaint and Steve McIntyre’s, both of which describe “Recursive Fury” as “defamatory”. I’ve been banned from commenting at the Guardian, but I reported two of Nuccitelli’s below-the-line comments on the grounds of legal issues, pointing out that in accusing me and McIntyre of bullying, the article was itself defamatory.

I left a three-part comment under the video, which elicited a sweet response from one Elizabeth Chosen:

Don’t listen to Geoff Chambers, that way lies confusion and scepticism. How does this confusion spread?”

http://livefromgolgafrincham.org/2014/03/18/will-they-ever-get-it/

Her link is so delightful I’m reproducing it here in full:

* * *

WILL THEY EVER, EVER, EVER GET IT?

March 18, 2014 · by Marcus Toynboyalé ·

It is an unhappy fact that climate change remains a confusing subject for many. This confusion has had the unfortunate effect of making many people sceptical of the very existence of climate change so it’s of fundamental importance, if we want to arrest scepticism in its bed, to find out the source of the confusion. Where does it come from, the confusion? What’s the confusion’s provenance? What’s making people so confusedly sceptical and not unconfusedly accepting of the science?

The answer is that a lot of people’s beliefs and judgements are made confused by a variety of competing confusion-promoting, anti-science sources: religious upbringing, political leaning, ideologies and self-interests, what news channels are watched, what newspapers are read, what blogs are visited, some of which, inevitably, are more confusion-promoting and anti-science than others. So what can we do about this?

The first practical thing we can do is provide a guide for the confused, a list of reads-if-you-have-the-times and avoids-even-if-you-do-have-the-times. If science – and its confusion-lowering effects – is to be affirmed, a list of what people should be reading, viewing and attending to to lower their confusion (and remember only scientific insight can lower confusion) ought to include:

  • Australia’s ABC

  • UK’s BBC & Guardian

  • USA’s New York Times

  • Real Climate Blog

  • Skeptical Science website

  • IPCC report

  • The international COP meetings

  • Michael Mann’s twitter feed and facebook page

  • Anything by the UK’s Royal Society and Sir Paul Nurse

  • NGO websites (Greenpeace, FoE, 10:10, us)

  • Anything by Stephan Lewandowsky and COIN

  • Anything by Lily Cole

Conversely, a list of sources people ought to avoid to keep confusion to a minimum should include:

  • Steve McIntyre of the Climate Audit blog

  • Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That blog

  • Andrew Montford of the Bishop Hill blog

  • Anything by Lords Monckton and Lawson

  • The GWPF website

  • The UK’s Daily Mail & Telegraph, the USA’s Wall Street Journal, Australia’s The Australian

  • The Jo Nova blog

  • Anything by Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, Richard Tol, Donna Laframboise, Fritz Vahrenholt, Andrew Bolt, James Delingpole, Christopher Booker, Tim Worstall, Bjorn Lomborg, Matt Ridley, Benny Pieser, Ben Pile, Barry Woods, Geoff Chambers and Matt Briggs.

  • The Register website

  • Conferences and literature by the Heartland Institute

  • Anything by Jonny Ball

How do we know this? The answer is twofold. Firstly by not examining the stuff that pours from the second-list sources in order to avoid risking exposure to confusion ourselves; and secondly by logically deducing, based on the prior-identification or self-identification of these characters and their associations as climate change sceptics, that they either deny, or are ignorant of, the climate science ‘fact-roll’ agreed by 97% of climate scientists, namely: 

  1. The earth’s climate is changing

  2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that contributes to this

  3. humans contribute to atmospheric CO2 through industrial activity

  4. therefore we need to change our profligate, over-consumptive lifestyles 

So that’s the first practical step we can take. The second step we can take to minimise science-starved confusion is expose the motives of the science-dismissing confusion maximisers. What’s in it for them? Why do they do it?

The answer to this is that it profits them to spread confusion. Sceptical bloggers, science-denying journalists, sceptical thinktanks, foundations, institutes and groupuscules – all in some way profit, either directly or indirectly, from dirty industry. If they weren’t in the pay of dirty industry they wouldn’t say the (almost laughably simplistic and un-nuanced) things we can deduce they do say. This observation is given further credence by considering the embarrassment factor: if there wasn’t such material advantage to be gained in being so unsophistcatedly outside the 97% consensus it’s unlikely anyone would have the front to situate themselves there.

Finally, the third, and possibly most important thing we can do is… improve communication! Keep on keeping on about all of the above. So we need to:

  • keep highlighting that if it rewards the confusion merchants to stick to the same message irrespective of scientific development, irrespective of new insight and research, irrespective of evidence, then this simply wrong message – climate isn’t changing, man doesn’t contribute, business as usual – will remain their shabby, constant mainstay;  

  • keep banging on that if it remunerates them financially to keep repeating the same discredited message over and over then this endless repetition, this never-ending recital, rather than one day crystallising the message into dazzling sense, rather than suddenly revealing it to be the honest and true account of nature it purports to be, reveals it instead to be the ineffably droning, cyclical mantra, the series of wretched gurgles and phonemes that it actually is;

  • keep pointing out, tirelessly and ceaselessly, year after year, decade after decade, that if there’s money to be made by endlessly covering the same old discredited ground, if the coffers are constantly replenished by repeating ad nauseum the same arguments and words over and over, over and over and over again, if endlessly banging on, decade after decade, year after year in this fashion fills your trouser pockets then why would you tire of doing it? Why would you stop writing the columns? Why would you give up filling the blogosphere? Stop appearing on television? Stop accepting the speech fees? Why would you pause, even for a moment, to think about the climatic depredations suffered by the developing countries? That if there’s money to be gained your likely reaction to this would be, so what? What pressing concern is that when there are squawk spots to fill on tv news channels, columns to fashion in the endless, oily spill of newsink (see the second list above) when there are international conferences to attend, films to make, and books to sell (see the second list above – the second list is the one below the first list);

  • and keep pointing out that actually if it makes you a profit to keep rehearsing this same message, far from the suffering of poorer countries and generations unborn, what becomes your most pressing concern is the comforting warm, sloppy sound of your own verbal, glossolalic incontinence; the florid flourishes of your keyboard rhetoric as you rat-ta-ta-tap your laptop into self-induced oblivion, drifting, soaring, plunging through helical word strands down into the DNA of your own seminal, lexical fluid, which should get boring for readers after a while but somehow, miraculously, doesn’t because the graphomaniacal authors of this nauseating ocean of FUD are always, always careful to finish, Big Brother style, with the hint of an emerging tactical breakthrough if only readers will stick by them.

To summarise, then, what we need to do is (a) identify the confusion merchants, (b) expose their motives, and (c) keep re-exposing their motives – but is that it? Well, possibly not because there is now emerging a fourth possible avenue of action. Over on The Conversation, Rochester Institute of Technology Professor of philosophy Lawrence Torcello has suggested making it an offence of criminal negligence to wilfully spread confusion and misinformation. Now, whether these powerful levers are necessary just yet is debatable, but certainly we might start the ball rolling with something akin in spirit: the regulation of scientific output on the internet.

Next week, then, LFG – proudly funded by clean money from the public purse which, crucially, is guaranteed to flow so that we can maintain financial independence from commercial pressure and keep on sticking up for the health of the public and planet – will be launching a new campaign, PLAIN PAGES, to stem the flood of handsomely-funded anti-science nonsense on the internet and stop the confusion-merchants in their tracks.

Much, much more to follow. Masses of it.

* * *

Did you see us there? Barry Woods, Ben Pile and me listed among the people you absolutely must not read, right up there with Bjorn Lomborg, Steve McIntyre, Judith Curry, Richard Tol, Donna Laframboise … and Johnny Ball. (We’re in the second list, which, as author Marcus Toynboyalé helpfully points out, is the one below the first list). After such a writeup, how can I possibly consider throwing in the towel? As Marcus so rightly says, why would I “…give up filling the blogosphere? Stop appearing on television? Stop accepting the speech fees?”

I was intrigued by Marcus’s proud boast to be “… funded by clean money from the public purse which, crucially, is guaranteed to flow..” That must be nice, while Bjorn, Ben, Barry and I have to survive on the fees for our numerous speaking engagements and TV appearances.

I went to their blog to find out what this guaranteed flow of clean public money was, and found this:

BY GOVERNMENT, FOR GOVERNMENT

Our main goal in bringing the brains of the public, government and science together to challenge bad practice is to give government a voice. At the end of the 20th century following momentous political change western governments of all hues struggled to find direction; they lost their voices. After a short period however a new political compact began to emerge between governments, charities, NGOs, civil-society and academics with the aim of leading people towards better living through raised awareness, healthier living, and more sustainable behaviour. Founding members of LFG were there from the start but seperately [sic] we began to notice the growing importance of neuroscience in providing answers to the most intransigent questions about healthier living. We formed LFG in 2011 to fill the neuroscience-shaped gap in evidence-based policy research.

BY YOU, FOR YOU TOO

With our position in the new compact determined by its internal parameters LFG necessarily receives the major part of its funding (92%) direct from the European Commission via the Department of Social and Environmental Affairs and its Office for Environmental and Social Council Support’s Special Fund for Behavioural Insight. Using the insight of common sense, however, we know that relying on income from too few sources can jeopardise impartial science. This is why your participation is vitally important too. Join in and make sure your voice is heard! Sign the pledge here.

Two of the six members of this NGO are or have been stand up comedians, so don’t take anything I say for granted. But I shall be asking Lord Lawson about this eccentric use of government funds the next time we appear on a TV programme together.

Here’s some more on Marcus, the author of the article that wants to regulate scientific output on the internet, as a first step towards prosecuting Lord Chris, Lord Nige, Barry, Ben and me for criminal negligence:

Before taking on stewardship of LFG full time, Marcus spent a couple of years as a film-maker (and even, for a short while, did the rounds as a stand-up comedian!) Prior to this he lectured part-time at the College of Food Enterprise, Lincoln… Here, among other things he commissioned the first report on the sustainability of East Lincolnshire’s food systems … and worked closely with Ian Dickinson’s Lincolnshire Sausage Company on conservation and sustainability issues.

..and here’s some more on Elizabeth Chosen:

Elizabeth (soon to be Baroness) Chosen is Policy Director at Remind, the West Wales mental health charity for teenagers.

Posted in Stephan Lewandowsky, Weirdos | Tagged , | 25 Comments

Prophesy from Orwell to Ehrlich

When I was a student (about half a century ago) I once hitched a lift with a lorry driver who asked me what I was studying. “Philosophy”, I said. He held out his hand and said: “Read my palm”.

My first job was in market research. Turning the responses to questionnaires into tables of percentages involved transferring the results on to punch cards, and hopping on a number 73 bus to take them down to the IBM office off Oxford Street to be processed on London’s sole commercial computer. You booked your time on the machine, and waited beside the humming monster the half an hour or so it took to transform the holes in the punch cards into tables of results comprehensible to the client. You could do it by hand, of course (and often we did) but IBM was marginally quicker.

Market researchers, like philosophers, are accredited with a certain limited ability to read the future – for instance when it comes to forecasting election results. Not unreasonably, the public associates wisdom with prophesy. After all, information nowadays is available to everyone who possesses the skill to access it; and so those who live by their wits (journalists, market researchers, academics, climate scientists) can only justify their superiority over the crowd by their skill in interpreting the information available to all. And mostly that means interpreting its significance for the future – the only unknown unknown.

Back then in the sixties I’d guess we were about 5% of the population – those who knew how to use a library catalogue and annotate a text, and – in extreme circumstances – access the services of IBM. Certain professions (lawyers, doctors, university professors) had been doing it for centuries. Now a new generation of university graduates were all doing it, and the skills of information processing had passed to a whole new range of professions, including business executives, advertising men, politicians, officers of the armed services, climatologists, and (of course) all the experts who write books on every subject under the sun.

If access to university education was one of the defining characteristics of the sixties, another was access to knowledge of all kinds via cheap paperbacks. No-one under the age of forty can imagine a world without Wikipaedia, a world in which ownership of a stock of Pelicans was a necessary bastion against ignorance. Of course it wasn’t infallible. There were Pelicans which would assure you that Mao’s China was the path to the future, and others that asserted the same thing about traditional Indian wisdom, or Zen Buddhism. And others that spoke of a new scientific discipline that combined the wisdom of traditonal societies with the discoveries of modern science – Ecology.

Small is Beautiful. Limits to Growth. The Population Bomb.The End of Affluence. These books – or rather the titles of these books – formed a generation. No need to have read them or to have absorbed the ideas therein. It was enough to have belonged to a generation which ascribed vaguely to certain ideas: that we live on a fragile planet; that resources are limited; that mankind is threatened, and at the same time dangerous. Anyone who ascribes to these ideas immediately becomes a seer, someone who foresees the future, who can read your palm.

And those who ascribed to these ideas were not a random sample of bods, but a clearly defined social class – the “classless” university educated middle class that emerged around the sixties and seventies and rapidly took over the levers of power in the media and in the political parties. If only David Cameron were a typical class product of the Eton- educated élite. If only Ed Miliband were a prisoner of the trade unions who elected him. Then we might have a dialogue, a debate. But their ideologies are identical. They belong to the same social class – the same computer savvy nerd culture which is proud to know that the world is round and not flat – and therefore thinks it can be summarised in a pie chart.

And those who live by the computer-produced graph must envisage dying by it – hence the necessity of computer-induced tragedy – hence the need for climate science and for the two catastrophic civilisation-destroying degrees.

Two degrees. They were forecasting 16°C here in the south of France yesterday and it was 26°C. If only I’d planted my tomatoes last month! The Méteo was 10°C out. Will I die? Will I f*ck. (Well of course I will, eventually. Another of the facts our consensus culture is designed to deny.)

Foreseeing the future is not a gift given to all. George Orwell, in “1984”, failed totally to

predict the world as it would be 36 years on. But he got so much right, by seeing (not foreseeing) that the marketing methods of capitalism, the moral fervour of communism, and the discipline of fascism were not fundamentally opposed, but could be combined to construct the worst of all possible worlds – forever.

Orwell expressed his pessimistic vision in the image of a jackboot grinding down liberty eternally. We can hope for something less soul-destroying. Perhaps a chorus of Ed Davey, Sir Paul Nurse and George Monbiot telling us to mend our ways, cut our consumption,and consider the lilies of the field (they toil not, nor do they emit much CO2) until the publication of the next IPCC report in 2018.

I’m not happy with that prospect. Of course, it’s not so drastic compared with the prospect facing your average Ukrainian; or the 50% of the young unemployed Greeks Italians or Spaniards.But it’s something worth combatting.

But how?

 

 

 

Posted in Paul Ehrlich FRS, Sociology of Climate Change | Tagged , | 11 Comments