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Victory of the Denialists! says Robert Manne in The Monthly as his Gods of Science fail

Posted By Joanne Nova On August 4, 2012 @ 1:39 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Firstly — No one wins anything while the people who slag off at scientists get their denigrating name-calling on the front cover of magazines. That said, I’m smiling. Beaming. The man who doesn’t know what science is, admits his team is failing. That has to be good. Real scientists everywhere, smile!

Manne’s argument appears to rest entirely on his mistaken belief that “science” is What The Gods Declare it To Be. For Manne, the Gods are “official climate scientists”. Apparently, only those who are anointed by Government funding have access to The Truth — and their declarations must be obeyed. Manne is so completely under their spell,  he is incapable of figuring out how anyone could think anything else.

“For reasonable citizens there ought to be no question easier to answer than whether or not human-caused global warming is real and is threatening the future of the Earth.”

For Manne, planetary atmospheric dynamics are so blindingly clear that only unreasonable citizens could question it. And if there is “no easier question”, then it follows that those who get this question wrong are not just unreasonable but quite possibly, brain dead. Manne’s writing is thick with insults, but thin on reasons.

So how does the arbiter of the reasonable, reason it? Like this:

” Thousands of climate scientists in a variety of discrete disciplines have been exploring the issue for decades. They have reached a consensual conclusion whose existence is easily demonstrated.”

He’s right that the consensus is real (among government funded climate scientists). But that’s not evidence about the climate, it’s evidence about scientific processes, monopoly science, and university culture — not the climate. The problem for Manne is that this assumes that 1/ science-the-human-practice is uncorruptible, and 2/ scientists are unaffected by human ambitions, money, fame, bias or …uh… simple error. Can humans be human? We skeptics think so.

His reasoning is the fallacy known (for a couple of thousand years) as Argument from Authority. The single point that makes science different from a religion is that in science, opinions are always trumped by evidence. There are no high Priests. Manne thinks evidence means studies of the consensus — of how many scientists vote “Yes”. The entire philosophy of science is that evidence comes from things like thermometers, satellites and weather-balloons, not from internet surveys.

It’s an anti-science position. The surveys he quotes are ones like Anderegg, and Doran and Zimmerman. The latter was a two minute survey sent to 10,257 scientists, but the figure of 97% of climate scientists only came from 75 of those people. Comments from scientists outside the 75 are scathing at times. The former study (Anderegg) was a blacklist of scientists, is useless for understanding feedbacks, though  works as a proxy for government funding: it shows that more funding of one side of the debate means more papers published from that point of view. To complete the trifecta of trivia, he also quotes Oreskes, whose work was equivalent to a google search on words. Again, confused researchers study proxies for grants instead of proxies for temperature.

The sad thing about the “intellectual left” is that not only does Manne not understand how to do the maths, the sums, and the physics of the climate, but he’s not much good at the human insights into the process of climate research either. Indeed the irony, given the Church’s history of friction with science, is that Archbishop George Pell has a much better grip on both.

Governments have funded thousands of scientists to study one sort of problem. The unwritten rules of climate “science” research are fairly clear: workers will be rewarded if they find one kind of answer, and called a denier, defunded, sacked, and basically exiled in the tea-rooms of universities around Australia if they find any other kind of answer.

What could possibly go wrong?

As always, with “intellectuals” when they analyze their failure, it’s impossible for them to have been defeated by better arguments and stronger evidence. Manne’s synopsis:

“A Dark Victory: How vested interests defeated climate science”

So even though evidence shows the vested interests are 3500 times larger on the believer side, and a $176 billion dollar market hangs for it’s very life on the truth (or not) of the great climate scare, Manne thinks he was beaten by big money. And that kind of thinking is why the intellectuals keep coming up with potty ideas.

I’m guessing Manne has never spoken to a real skeptic, at least not for long. Only someone who studies skeptics through the DeSmog portal could  define “denialists” as “orthodox members of a tightly knit group whose natural disposition is not to think for themselves”.

We’re so tightly knit, all 10,000 of us meet in an exotic location for two weeks every year with a mass media congregation, dinners and drinks — no wait, that’s what they do.

Skeptics don’t think for themselves, he declares. It’d be a tad more convincing if it didn’t come from the man who parrots a consensus.  He’s the one outsourcing his thinking. It’s psychological projection run riot. Those who think — check the data; those who don’t — poll the crowd.

And as for “orthodox” and organized -  any random group of a hundred skeptics would argue 120 different positions. Go on ask them: What’s the most powerful flaw in the man-made warming scare? Is it the economics, the failure of renewables, the irrational need to ignore nuclear energy, or perhaps the thing that really bugs them is the fake nature of the so called “free market solution” — where everything that matters is fixed by the bureaucrats rather than the market? Could the most silly thing about the climate debate be the fact that temperatures have been flat for a decade; the ocean isn’t warming much; the hot spot is missing; the thermometers are next to heat sinks; the ice cores show CO2 rises after the temperature (not before); the thermometer results were always adjusted up and the alarmists hide declines and results, reviews, codes or datasets or all of the above; alarmists also bully and call people names (denier) — boy that’s a red flag for some skeptics.  For others ,in the end, even if we behave as obedient pussies and do everything the Gods of science tell us too, we all know that in a hundred years the world will cool by 0C and the seas will fall by no centimeters. (Yes, I’m rounding, but do you really want to fight over those details?)

Skeptics are not the team which has a UN coordinating panel, government funded institutions, or associations, committees, and NGO’s worth hundreds of millions that are devoted to propagating their words. Nor do skeptics have a sympathetic media, or multimillion dollar ad campaigns funded by taxpayers.

Dear Robert, No, you weren’t defeated by a wall of money. You lost, despite your wall of money.


Most of the 7000 word article is paywalled, but Readfearn also writes at the ABC about it.


Anderegg, W.R., Prall, J.W. Harold, J.., Schneider, S. (2010) Expert Credibility in Climate Change, Proc Nat Acad Sci. [Abstract]  [PDF] [Discussion -Pielke]

Doran and Zimmerman (2009) Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change, Eos, VOLUME 90 NUMBER 3 20 JANUARY 2009  [PDF]

Oreskes, N. (2004), Beyond the ivory tower: The scientific consensus on climate change, Science,
306, 1686–1686 [Full text]


H/t to Pat for the correction of George Pell’s status: “current Archbishop” it is.


UPDATE: Robert Manne replies at #29. See my reply to that. – Jo


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