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Jo Nova in The Australian: Manne is anti-science on climate

Posted By Joanne Nova On August 25, 2012 @ 2:56 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

I’m published this weekend in The Australian (building on the post I did previously here.  Manne himself popped in there to tell us “Deniers Hunt in Packs” — demonstrating his true depth of insight into the libertarian independent psyche — a group defined by it’s non-pack nature.)

Manne declares that the “Denialists are Victorious” (in The Monthly, August 2012) but his sole reasoning that the victorious are “deniers” is merely that some chosen experts tell us a disaster is coming and he feels they could not possibly be wrong. Argument from authority is a fallacy known for 2,000 years, and it is a key point, it is the disguise of the witchdoctor — “Trust me, I am the chosen one”. The one defining difference between science and religion is that the devout can argue from authority, but the scientific cannot. In science there are no Gods and there is no Bible — what matters is the evidence. The highest experts may declare the world is headed for catastrophe, but if 3,000 thermometers in ocean buoys disagree (and they do: see “Argo”), the scientist questions the opinions and goes with the observations.

Robert Manne thinks internet surveys of scientists are a valid way to test whether planetary atmospheric dynamics is changing in dangerous and unprecedented ways. It’s an anti-science position. Since the dawn of time tribal witchdoctors have been forecasting storms and asking us to pay tribute to their idols. Discussion of climate science has descended into abject farce.

To understand the danger of quoting surveys of scientists, let’s look at the three Manne names.

The first (Anderegg) is a blacklist of “good guys” and “bad guys” in the world of science. It doesn’t measure the climate, but it is a reasonable proxy for government grants. Just add up the salaries of all the believers vs the unconvinced and the ratio would be similar. The US government bestowed $79 billion (1990 – 2009) on scientists who looked for a crisis, but very little on those looking for natural causes or holes in the theory. It is a non-event of no proportions that there are more believers publishing papers than skeptics, and the ratio is similar to the funding (though quite a few skeptics manage to publish despite having no tenure, no staff, and no easy access to data.) The number of papers tells us nothing about the quality of the research, it’s not that hard to write papers that are largely irrelevant or repetitive, or the output of another flawed climate simulation.

His approved “climate scientists” might as well be a list of anointed preachers of the Cult of Climate Science. The esteemed?

The second, Doran and Zimmerman was a 2 minute survey sent to 10,257 scientists, but the figure of “97% of climate scientists” only came from 77 people who were deemed to be “qualified” (75 of 77 agreed). Climate Scientists are failing to convince scientists from other disciplines (who usually have no vested interest the outcome.) The petition project shows that 31,500 scientists (including 9,000 PhDs) disagree with the 75 in the government anointed official climate science positions. The petition does not tell us about the “truth” of the climate either, but it rather makes a mockery of the idea of a consensus. Sure, the opinion of a climate scientist is worth more than the opinion of a physicist, but is each climate scientist worth more than 420 other scientists? Who knows? The answer to that is that it’s a stupid question. We won’t know anything for sure about the effect of trace gases by researching opinions of hominids. Instead we ought pay attention to weather balloons and satellites, or ice cores and pollen assays.

Manne also quotes Naomi Orsekes, author of The Merchants of Doubt, her work was equivalent to a google search on words in scientific papers. Again, confused researchers study proxies for grants instead of proxies for temperature. Oreskes and Manne posit the unlikely conspiracy that oil funds dominate the debate, (as if Exxon were funding thousands of dissenting scientists).  Government funding out-spends the oil giants by 3500 to 1 (or more) and that most oil giants like Shell and BP mostly support alarmism and carbon markets in any case. Oreskes can name virtually no significant funding for skeptics, who are almost all unpaid volunteers, working out of professional and patriotic duty, appalled by the illogical, anti-science sentiments of people like Oreskes and Manne.

Manne treats climate scientists as if they are infallible Gods of Science. They-who-must-not-be-questioned have issued their decree and anyone who questions it is a denier. Manne’s petty name-calling shows how unintellectual his arguments are.

This adulation of individuals and tests of character, “success”, or popularity is the anti-thesis of what the great brains-trust of science ought to do. In science all minds test their theories against the universe, and only the real world matters. The petty world of human reputations is steeped in bias and conflicts of interest with personality defects and political power grabs, not to mention the corrupting influence of money. Science achieved vast success for civilization by freeing us from exactly this cess-pool of complexity, to rise above the posturing and consider only impartial observations.

There is a good reason the club of climate scientists are failing to convince other scientists — their evidence is weak — and any good scientist can see that.

Science is not a democracy. Natural laws don’t form because anyone says so, and the only way to find out the answer is to … look at the measurements from the planet, not from the people.

Jo Nova

Joanne Nova is a graduate in molecular biology and former associate lecturer in science communication at ANU. Her blog is read by 450,000 people a year from 200 countries: joannenova.com.au


{This version above may differ from The Australian’s — It’s has the original links to sources – but their final version may have edits. – Jo)

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