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The death of reason at UWA

Posted By Joanne Nova On November 16, 2010 @ 1:35 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Stephan Lewandowsky reasons by bad-analogy

How do we know man-made climate change is a mortal threat?  Some people discuss radiosondes, but for Lewandowsky, the answers lie in laser surgery, gravity waves, airplanes, bridges, AIDS, nanotechnology, falling apples, and driving cars into brick walls.

On Ad Hominem Unleashed (otherwise known as the ABC), Lewandowsky is working his way through the fallacies season by season — he’s tried argument from authority, he’s hailed expert opinion, and even pretended that expert opinion is evidence.

So now, moving right along into Spring, he’s come to a variation of the “insurance” argument. Having told us how absolutely certain everything is, with a straight face, he’s now telling us it’s uncertain, but basically, since we absolutely definitely know it might be bad,  we ought to reject the best source of energy known to humankind, and try all the alternatives, no matter how uncertain they are, even if it kills people. (I’m sure he doesn’t think of it that way, but he might change his mind if he spent a day with a mother in Tanzania who can’t afford to boil drinking water and is nursing a child with typhoid.)

Follow his “thinking”

Lewandowsky is so ahead-of-the-pack with fallacies, that possibly he has even invented some new ones.

  • Because eye doctors recommend surgery for detached retinas, your family should pay $1,000 a year to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Because we know gravity “happens”, we therefore should reinvent and rebuild our civilization’s energy infrastructure.
  • Because tobacco companies tried to influence a public debate on a different topic twenty years ago, citizens should accept everything anyone from a university says, regardless of the vested interests of the proponent. (Of course there are “no university professors” who disagree with Lewandowsky, because skeptical university professors, in his head anyway, are not university professors — seen through the veil of the ad hominem reflex, they’re “industry sponsored players” .)

Patronisation unleashed

Lewandowsky thinks the audience of the ABC is so mindless they won’t see through his transparent attempt to equate the uncertainties of climate science with the uncertainties of… gravity. It works like this: because there is even some uncertainty associated with our understanding of gravity, it follows (if you are insane) that uncertainty should not stop us acting to prevent any dangerous things. With this “logic”, we should therefore act to prevent all other variously uncertain risks, and presumably Lewandowsky is right now rushing to build an anti-asteroid missile defense shield (because we know the big one will come). But since there’s a risk in using a missile as a shield, I presume he’s also building another missile defense in the event of a misuse of that missile defense shield, and on and on the banal chain goes.

Lewandowsky is shamelessly using his titled position at UWA to push propaganda, attack volunteer scientists, destroy the tenets of science, and confuse the public. I wonder if he gives lectures to students?

It rather boggles the mind to imagine just how fast great Western institutions have degenerated. Ponder that Lewandowsky writes as a representative of the University of Western Australia,  yet is essentially innumerate. He appears to equate any evidence of carbon acting as a greenhouse gas with everything the models project: 1.2 degrees, 5 degrees — what’s the difference?

So this is what universities are reduced too? Professorial fellows of science who can’t use Aristotelian reasoning are parasites on the public purse. Fellow psychologists ought be cringing quietly that while they fight for credibility, Lewandowsky singlehandedly advertises that psychology (at UWA anyhow) doesn’t belong in any faculty called “science”.

Lewandowsky specializes in the K-3 ad hom

“K-3″ meaning Kinder to Grade Three. Slander, smear, and innuendo are the weapons of choice for the man with no evidence. Once upon a time, a particular homo sapien might have been involved on the periphery of a statistical debate about tobacco and that same man might be unconvinced about the IPCC, therefore the world’s climate sensitivity is 3.5 degrees C. ERGO Dipso Facto. Geddit?

Precisely the same pseudo-scientific “institutes,” using the same pseudo-scientific jargon and the same pseudo-scientific “conferences” are now seeking to create the appearance of a “debate” about the fundamentals of climate science. Indeed, the very same people – yes, the same individuals – who were involved in manufacturing doubt about the link between smoking and cancer are now also involved in manufacturing doubt about climate science.

Don’t miss the merchant of doubt herself: Oreskes

Anyone who wonders why smoking and climate science should attract the attention of the same clique of manufacturers of doubt can attend one of Professor Oreskes’ lectures later this month: She will be touring Australia in November, with lecture stops at universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.

Lewandowsky is pushing the Oreskes tour. (Is UWA contributing funds?)

Not surprisingly he misses the double irony of a speaker spruiking her book — Merchants of Doubt – which seeds doubts about the credibility of mostly unpaid people who are allegedly… seeding doubt. Naomi Oreskes IS the merchant of doubt, and in a grand projection she pours her own dubious intentions onto other honorable speakers.

Rather than the more traditional scientific method where hypotheses are compared to results, Naiomi reasons by popularity survey: “20 percent of abstracts explicitly endorsed the consensus”. It saves so much time, and there’s no need to get into the whole “cause and effect” chain after all. Who needs a mechanism when you can just do a survey? Perhaps we can find the cure to cancer with Microsoft word searches on research abstracts?

Marc Hendrickx also replied to Lewandowsky on ABC Unleashed, and discusses the real meaning of “uncertainty”.

IPCC science: are you willing to take the risk?

If IPCC Climate scientists were Physicists: The IPCC has found that the total net anthropogenic forcing is 1.6 W.m-2 with an error range of 0.6 to 2.4 W.m-2. If the IPCC’s same errors for Radiative Forcing Components were applied to the universal gravitational constant, IPCC climate scientists would tell us that the UGC is 6.67 × 10-11 N·m2/kg2 with a range of 2.5-10 N·m2/kg2. They would then assure us there is 90% certainty that acceleration due to gravity on Earth at sea level is in the range 3.7 to 14.7 m.s-2. IPCC climate scientists would tell us apples may be as light as a feather or as heavy as a brick. They would tell us apples fall down, but they’d be unable to tell us how fast, and occasionally they may actually fall upwards.

If IPCC Climate Scientists were engineers: If IPCC climate scientists were engineers they wouldn’t use rulers to measure distance, they’d use the wind. IPCC climate models predict a hot-spot over the tropics but thermometers attached to weather balloons show no sign of it, the hotspot is missing. So with no warming in the thermometers IPCC climate modelers looked elsewhere and claimed to have found it in wind shear. Throw away your calculators, they would tell the engineers the answer is blowing in the wind. So how would IPCC climate scientists go at engineering? Early attempts at engineering by IPCC climate scientists are documented in the image to accompany this piece above; the effect of wind shear not accounted for in this case: Would you trust an IPCC climate scientist to build your building?


Lewandowsky: Climate change: are you willing to take the risk?

Marc Hendrickx:  IPCC science: are you willing to take the risk?

Oreskes’ book on Amazon: Merchants of Doubt

Other posts on Stephan Lewandowsky

Picasso Brain Syndrome

Name-calling fairy dust: “Conspiracy Theorist”

The hypocrisy of the annointed

Learn how not to reason at the University of Western Australia

Lewandowsky: the ABC parades a witchdoctor again


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