Gluckman stumbles, Part 2 – Sludge

Lies in truth

UPDATE 18 July – see end (Royal Society)

This is the second instalment of a review of Professor Sir Peter Gluckman’s speech of 9 June, entitled Integrity in Science: Implications from and for the Climate Change Debate. The first instalment was Gluckman stumbles on the truth.

In using the term “denialist”, our Chief Science Advisor descends to the sludge at the bottom of the barrel of scientific debate. It is a matter of profound regret that the CSA imports this malignant, divisive term to his prestigious office and the hallowed halls of the Royal Society.

Soaked in fallacy

There is no reason for an honest man of science to employ erroneous techniques of observation or debate, for what would it profit him? They would only ensure, first, that his argument fails and, second, that his credibility is damaged, the greater for being the higher in rank. So this is an enormous lapse in judgement by our top scientist and deserves the firmest reproach. Endorsement of Sir Peter’s comments, such as by the Royal Society (see below), is similarly reproachable.

In adopting the technique – or logical fallacy, whichever you prefer – of the ad hominem argument by labelling those who disagree with him as denialist and rejectionist, he engages in the worst scientific conduct. It is no less than poisonous, and that this toxic stuff now emanates from the summit of our scientific pyramid gives it a cachet it should never receive.

Whatever familiarity the term has achieved under relentless repetition, the ad hominem fallacy it is soaked in is undiminished and thus it can never be acceptable among the well-educated.

In introducing the term, Sir Peter explains:

While the motives of those who reject the science are variable, the responses within climate change, evolution, HIV, smoking, ozone holes, immunisation and so forth have been remarkably stereotypic, so much so that they been [sic] the subject of study – the field has been given the general name of denialism. It is not a term I like very much as it conflates people with a variety of motivations but I will use it through the rest of this talk. In general, denialism involves vocal rejection of the consensus reached and to do so some denialists actively confuse or convince the public and the media that the consensus is not based on sound science.

Such rejectionists, when they have some form of scientific qualification, can provide strong voices as alternative authorities who appear credible but in general their credentials are not the same as those of active researchers in the field. Sometimes special interest groups will establish institutions with pseudo‐scientific credibility such as the Discovery Institute in the USA to bolster their position. A frequent tool is an excessive focus on outlier extreme papers or irrelevant observations. Other tools are misrepresentation, selective use of the literature and the use of false analogies. The use of false experts is common and serious attempts are made to harass and denigrate real experts.

Mere enquiry vilified

Thoughtful people will recognise this as an attempt to categorise disputants of Sir Peter’s views, even those with honest motives, into a small number of contemptible groups, and he himself tacitly admits this in declaring “it conflates people with a variety of motivations.” Thus does he hazard a lethargic reluctance to use the word, but his intention remains transparent and could not be more crassly unscientific. Casting aspersions on the opponent ignores the substance of the argument and is therefore the antithesis of science.

Shame on him.

There are people with genuine questions about global warming who would nevertheless by their mere enquiry be vilified under Sir Peter’s prescription. For instance, someone who asks to know the evidence for mankind’s dangerous interference in the climate before they form an opinion on the subject (and shouldn’t that be all of us?) is called a denier. In just asking for the evidence, they are setting aside any talk of consensus in favour of considering the matter for themselves, but instead of being given the evidence, they are mocked – held guilty of “rejecting the science.” By this simple technique are even sincere enquirers classed as denialists and silenced.

It is a shameful practice.

Simple rebuttal ignored

In claiming to “study” the various classes of rejectionists, Sir Peter employs a singularly weak argument in support of dangerous anthropogenic global warming (AGW). For merely complaining that “some denialists actively confuse or convince the public and the media that the consensus is not based on sound science” neither clears up the alleged confusion nor constitutes proof of AGW.

Sir Peter is far from ignorant, so it is ridiculous that he ignores a simple rebuttal: describe the so-called sound science that underlies the consensus. In other words, briefly state the evidence for AGW – for what could be easier? The fact that he refuses to do this raises doubt that he can, for this was a premier occasion before an august audience – there could be no better opportunity.

Refuses to provide evidence

I say “refuse” deliberately, for the first response of a trained scientist upon being challenged is to give the evidence – he must have considered doing so and he must have refused.

There can be but two reasons for his refusal to provide the evidence: either he does not know it, or no sound science exists. A third possibility, that the evidence is too highly technical to describe for this audience, is absurd. Sir Peter is an excellent communicator who I’m sure could, if he wished, fully describe the human immune system to six-year-olds.

He raises some climate issues in discussing evidence of a human influence on the climate. However, this consists mostly of evidence of warming or the consequences of warming, not of a human causation. There is mention of correlation between our emissions and the temperature, but, again, not of causation. I will address that separately.

Keep asking for evidence

Sir Peter describes underhand techniques which are indeed employed by some on both sides of the climate debate, but it is his linking of them all together in an attempt to tar all questioners with the same filthy brush which is execrable – illogical and immoral. He does not exempt the naturally curious from his opprobrium – presumably everyone should have heard of and thus echo the IPCC.

We note with some irony that, since none of the “denialist” techniques he describes is present in the question “what is the evidence,” though he wants us to label such innocent questioners denialists, he gives us no reason to.

Since his argument fails in that case we ourselves shall with a clear conscience continue to ask for the evidence.

As a public servant Sir Peter is obliged to make a reasonable response to valid questions from the public of New Zealand and as a scientist he owes no less to his scientific colleagues. But his unsatisfactory approach to climate enquiries surely contaminates the dignity of the Chief Science Advisor.

Or tell me: what mistake do I make?

UPDATE – 18 July

Royal Society complicit in disreputable science

The NZ Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC), prompted by Sir Peter’s intemperate description of contrary scientists as denialists, has been trying to persuade the Royal Society to discuss climate science issues. The effort has been spearheaded by Dr Doug Edmeades, himself a member of the Royal Society, who has exhausted every private avenue in attempts to engage the CSA and/or the Royal Society in a dialogue.

The effort arose from disputing Sir Peter’s 2009 position paper on Climate Change. Dr Edmeades sent the CSA a letter outlining ten disputed points; he set out some of the issues in a press release from the NZCSC. Since early this year Dr Edmeades has written numerous letters to the CSA’s office and the Royal Society.

A few days ago Dr Edmeades received this reply from Stephen Goldson, Vice President Biological and Life Science, Royal Society of New Zealand, confirming their refusal even to talk to us:

The Royal Society of New Zealand sees the comments made by the Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman in his 9 June 2010 speech at Victoria University of Wellington entitled Integrity in Science: Implications from and for the Climate Change Debate, as usefully addressing the issues you have brought up and has nothing more to add.

Nothing more to add? How about answering our questions? (More on those later.) All that is left to us is a public dispute – well, amen. So it begins here.

The Royal Society, whose governing legislation defines its purpose as “the advancement and promotion of Science and Technology in New Zealand,” thus confirms it has no interest in debating the issue of climate change – for years now one of the most important scientific topics of our time – with suitably qualified scientists. It is similarly reluctant to discuss and justify its description of members of the Coalition and others, many of them leading scientists of long standing, with the pejorative term “denialists”.

The Royal Society thus specifically endorses the CSA’s technique of ad hominem arguments against those who question global warming.

This is a continuing scandal that blackens the very heart of science and it is occurring around the world.

14 Thoughts on “Gluckman stumbles, Part 2 – Sludge

  1. It might help if Prof Gluckman provided a more detailed description of what he means by the term “denier” in the context of climate change.

    The term is so loose that it is worthless unless quantified.

    So maybe we should all write to him and see if we can get a definitive answer.

  2. There’s a link to his speech in my first paragraph, so you could trawl through it for more clues, but the two paragraphs I quoted (in green, after “In introducing the term, Sir Peter explains:”) seemed to me the most pertinent. They are not a definition, but at least an indication – carefully vague, I think, to enrol as many as possible.

    You’re right that it’s poorly defined, but that hardly renders it worthless – it firmly conveys a repugnant message. Using it in the context of scientific discourse is insolent.

  3. Andy on July 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm said:

    I agree wholeheartedly. But if you try to pin anyone down on this issue, they cannot answer.

    i.e., I accept that the planet appears to be in a warming phase. I accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. I accept that CO2 causes warming.

    Within those parameters, we do not know how feedbacks affect the effect of CO2. The IPCC assume a positive feedback effect of water vapour to produce high climate sensitivity.
    Why should we accept this when there is no empirical evidence to support the assertion?

    Moreover, why should we accept a science that has been overwhelmingly shown to have been driven by the political and financial interests invested in it, and deliberately excluded counter views.

  4. You’re so right. **sigh**

    We must keep chipping away at falsity, tearing ignorance apart and promulgating the truth until more people pay attention. Only then will the politicians pay attention.

  5. Bulaman on July 20, 2010 at 8:36 am said:

    We have Nick (I have a PHD so I’m a genius) Smith in town tonight as part of the PR road show.. What do you want asked?

  6. Andy on July 20, 2010 at 9:06 am said:

    I’d specifically like you to ask him why we are paying $12.50 a tonne for CO2 under the ETS, when the CCX is trading at 10c a tonne

    Moreover, I’d like some clarification on what markets the NZ ETS will be aligned with. It is my understanding that after the transition period, we will be paying the market rate. So which market do we need to look at?

    If you can get an answer, I’d be very happy!

  7. Bulaman on July 20, 2010 at 9:51 am said:

    The CCX one is simple.. We trade in “gold’ standard credits that have higher accountability than required for the CCX. You could probably sell the tower bridge on that CCX thing as carbon locked up in stones!!
    Most of our carbon sales (indulgences) from forests go to EU (Norway) power companies. The fun part comes when EU power consumers (voters) realise they are paying for trees over here. This thing is effectively SMP’s for trees. Trees of course that are owned offshore so like the carousel frauds in Europe the payola does not stay here..

  8. Bulaman, thanks for the offer!

    1. Because of the costs of our ETS and the changes it will force on us, everyone wants to be sure that the reasoning behind the ETS is unquestionable. So, first, would you please state, in your own words, the actual evidence of a dangerous human influence on the climate?

    2. Your government says that, disregarding doubts about the science, we should fear damaging repercussions from our trading partners if we fail to respond to the predictions of a climatic disaster. So what repercussions have occurred or will occur against those very trading partners for their lack of response?

    3. What are the results of any analysis the government might have conducted, as is its duty, into the costs and benefits to the nation of having and of not having an ETS, and of the effects of having or not having an ETS on the world’s climate? Or is it the case that no proper analysis was conducted?

    4. Were you, John Key and other leading members of the National Government, in changing so publicly from opposing the Labour Government’s ETS to championing it, subject to influence from international bodies or from other countries, or is your about-face linked to the NZ-China Free Trade Agreement?

    5. No meaningful international treaty emerged from the greatly-anticipated Copenhagen conference; we alone have installed a wide-ranging scheme. Why has no other sovereign state, ruled by democratically elected leaders, not a regional association such as the EU, ruled by unelected bureaucrats, freely introduced an ETS or other climate-changing scheme?

    Number 1 would be my must-ask and the others in that order, in case you get stopped. But change the order of numbers 2–5 as you wish.

    I’m aware that one of our objectives here is not only to obtain clear answers (which would be nice), but to publicly demonstrate the absence of clear answers. The more often that happens the sooner the house of cards must collapse.

    Good luck! Where is this happening tonight?

  9. Andy on July 20, 2010 at 1:04 pm said:

    Thanks for the info, Bulaman, but where do we find the cost of these credits? Any businessman wanted to cost his or her expenses will need to know these numbers, just like we need to know the cost of any other commodity.

  10. Andy on July 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm said:

    You might also like to ask Dr Smith whether he knows that Phil Jones got to endorse his own papers for the Oxburgh enquiry

    As revealed today on WUWT and via Bishop Hill

    and based on this and other open and unresolved scandals (amazongate) why should we have any faith whatsoever in climate science and the corrupt institutions that peddle this stuff.

  11. Bulaman on July 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm said:

    That’s the problem with the whole process. No one knows year to year what will happen. A Geroge Soros type can manipulate the market to his own ends. At the moment they are pretty much all government controlled so there is no private enterprise in it. Without government support (subsidy) any “trade” system would have failed just as surely as wind energy and similar technologies fail without tax payer support. Investment in the forest industry will dissappear because if you sign in to the credits you also assume the liabilities at harvest. This means the forest owner may be more concerned about repaying credits than harvesting the forest so there is no log supply for the processor. Of course no one will insure for carbon losses (fire) so there is some reluctance to take this up..

  12. Clarence on August 3, 2010 at 1:42 am said:

    So, Sir Peter seems to suspect it wos the human what done it. One assumes he is painstakingly collating his evidence and will soon have a grand denouement for us all -– gathered in the grand hall.

    One cannot but admire his skill. In his seemingly endless Victoria speech, he dropped not a hint of what that evidence might be.In fact, one can scour all his speeches with minute care and find no reason whatever to suspect the hapless human.

    He doubtless has some profound reason for keeping his powder dry. But his impact will be the greater when he finally tables the seminal peer-reviewed paper which attributes global warming to the activities of humans.

  13. Clarence on August 3, 2010 at 1:51 am said:

    Someday Sir Peter shall bare all! Thus shall the demonic denialists be routed by the god-fearing allegalists. Roll on that day!

  14. Brilliant. This is the theme to hammer, for it is never referred to and nobody has an answer.

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