A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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John Cook wins award as Friend of Planet for feeding fallacies to school children

The Sydney Morning Herald lauds the Queensland Academic who won an award and busted four myths. The fake expert tosses out non-sequitur red herrings and strawmen, ignores some of the largest forces of nature in the solar system, trashes the scientific method. Give him a Nobel eh? John Cook still doesn’t appear to know about the most relevant surveys in his chosen field.

This week, the American National Center for Science Education gave Mr Cook its annual Friend of the Planet award, for outstanding work to advance the centre’s goals.

Evidently the centre’s goals include teaching kids that science is a form of opinion polling. Nah — who am I kidding, the primary goal is training kids to pay their science tax, to salute officials in lab coats, and prostrate themselves before Big-Gov, which after all, controls the weather.  Whatever else happens at schools, children must never ever question Big-Government Science. (That might lead them to question big-government grants!).


Lets unpack the mythical myth-busting

John Cook starts with a myth that isn’t a myth, and which isn’t science either:

MYTH BUSTED: There’s no scientific consensus on climate change

Despite getting a full time salary at UQ, Cook-the-consensus [...]

UQ’s Denial 101x : Putting the stink in distinction

Guest Post By Tony Thomas*

A keen student, I have just completed Week One of John Cook’s MOOC at Queensland University: “Denial 101x – Making Sense of Climate Science Denial.”

A MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course, and Cook’s course has 13,000 students so far.  He is a Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University  and author of the notorious 2013 study purporting to find a 97% climate consensus in the science literature.

One normally gets a buzz from study. But my brain needs a shower and scrub to feel clean again.

I was not intending to write about my studies so early, in case that got me prematurely expelled. But one week of it is enough.

For example, in case I forget elements of Cook’s denialist ideation, he provides an acronym FLICC. This covers Fake experts, Logical fallacies, Impossible expectations, Cherry picking and Conspiracy theories.

Worse is in store. Cook says, “Next week’s interviews are equally exciting, as we speak to Phil Jones from the University of East Anglia…” Jones is the author of   “pretty awful emails” (his words) in Climategate. Other stars in the Cook course firmament will be Michael “Hockey-stick” Mann and [...]

The 97% Cook Consensus – when will Environ Res Letters retract it?

Richard Tol has an excellent summary of the state of the 97% claim by John Cook et al, published in The Australian today.

It becomes exhausting to just list the errors.

Don’t ask how bad a paper has to be to get retracted. Ask how bad it has to be to get published.

As Tol explains, the Cook et al paper used an unrepresentative sample, can’t be replicated, and leaves out many useful papers. The study was done by biased observers who disagreed with each other a third of the time, and disagree with the authors of those papers nearly two-thirds of the time. About 75% of the papers in the study were irrelevant in the first place, with nothing to say about the subject matter. Technically, we could call them  “padding”. Cook himself has admitted data quality is low. He refused to release all his data, and even threatened legal action to hide it. (The university claimed it would breach a confidentiality agreement. But in reality, there was no agreement to breach.) As it happens, the data ended up being public anyhow. Tol refers to an “alleged hacker” but, my understanding is that no hack took place, and the [...]

Study namecalling at Queensland University

UPDATE: See Tony Thomas’s views on the course as it runs: UQ’s Denial 101x : Putting the stink in distinction. The course is living up to all expectations!

Would you too like to learn how to misinform people, mangle English, and toss cherry-picked factoids that avoid the real point? How about studying to be an apologist for scientists who take your taxes, but hide their data? Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being an obedient useful fool for the State, to help promote propaganda that governments can change the weather if the people just pay enough money?

Are you looking for a cause to pick up that you can brag about at parties to prove your social superiority, impress teenage girls, or hide your low self-esteem? Do you crave an outlet where you get the thrill of being a namecalling bully, but with the excuse that you are “saving the planet” and “being scientific”?

Good news, Queensland University is dumping any pretense that its science faculty uses logic or reason or has an interest in observable evidence. The university is advertising that abusing English definitions and words meets its standards of higher education. After all, no one [...]

Lewandowsky — Do we hate our participants?

José Duarte is a psychology PhD candidate. He is able to make sense of  issues in the “Moon Landing Paper” by Stephan Lewandowsky, with some new angles in a way I haven’t seen before. He makes a convincing case for the paper to be retracted, about six times over. My initial analysis of this paper still stands: “This could be the worst paper  I have seen — an ad hom argument taken to its absurd extreme, rebadged as “science”.

I recommend Duarte’s whole long analysis, though there is language there that for legal reasons I won’t repeat or endorse. What we see is sloppy science and grand “incompetence“.

Duarte focuses on the deception of a title based on only 10 responses, some of which were fakes, none of which was disclosed to the reader:

Lewandowsky, Oberauer, Gignac titled their paper “NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science.”

Why is their title based on the variable for which they have the least data, essentially no data?

Why in the abstract are they linking free market views to incredibly damaging positions that again, they have [...]

Cook scores 97% for incompetence on a meaningless consensus

John Cook’s 97% consensus paper was never going to tell us anything about climate science, so it does seem somewhat pointless to analyze the entrails. It was always a marketing ploy. If it had been done well it might have been useful as a proxy for government funding in science. But it wasn’t, so all we’re left with is some insight about the state of academic competence.

Finding a consensus should have been easy. After all,  billions of dollars of funding has gone to find some evidence (any evidence) that CO2 causes a crisis, and entire research departments have been set up to produce papers to discuss that. And if they didn’t find evidence (they didn’t), they could still write papers discussing the bias of instruments, the error bars, the adjustments, and so on and so forth. What are the chances that hordes of scientists would not find anything to publish? We also know that while believers were being employed left, far-left, and center, quite a few skeptics were sacked. Sometimes skeptical papers got delayed by up to two years, while there was usually a rapid-print option for believers. Once, a whole journal was even shut down for publishing skeptical papers [...]

The University of Queensland’s diabolical dilemma

Rud Istvan has taken it upon himself to point out the diabolical dilemma the University of Queensland is facing. They have now claimed ownership of the work for the 97% Consensus paper (Cook et al 2013). In which case, UQ may have published a paper which breaches its own ethical principles (and is now threatening Brandon Shollenberger with legal action if he does what they themselves have already done). Alternately, if there was no ethical approval they are misrepresenting the situation with “grossly invalid grounds” and there is no reason to withhold data and threaten Shollenberger and the said data ought be released immediately.

The paper should be retracted or the data should be released to Richard Tol and Brandon Shollenberger. I would think an apology to Brandon, or to those named in the paper would also be a bare minimum requirement.


PS: As I said, the question of the participants names is a strawman. The real issue is the other data — like timestamps. Why are UQ risking their reputation to hide the other data (or lack thereof?)


. Prof. Alistair McEwan Acting-Pro-Vice Chancellor University of QueenslandMr. Graham Lloyd Environmental Editor ……………………………………….. Ms. Jane Malloch, Esq. Head [...]

Uni Queensland defends legal threats over “climate” data they want to keep secret

This is about data they don’t own, that wasn’t secure, is supposedly available, but they want to keep secret.

More bad news for the University of Queensland. The Australian discussed the issue of the bizarre threatening letter that UQ sent to Brandon Shollenberger when he contacted them to let them know he’d found some data one of their employees carelessly left unprotected lying around on the web. Now the acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor is trying to do damage-control by releasing a media statement, but he’s missed the chance to say the legal threat was a parody  — with that easy escape gone, he’s defending the indefendable. Brandon has already responded on his site, arguing that the VC is “highly misleading”: the names of the surveyers are not important (and are also mostly known already), but time stamps, and missing papers are still unpublished, and UQ has not explained why they ought be concealed.

The UQ Statement (quoted below) also misses the point and in so many ways.

“The following is a statement from UQ acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and International) Professor Alastair McEwan.

“Recent media coverage (The Australian, 17 March 2013) has stated that The University of Queensland is [...]

John Cook’s consensus data is so good his Uni will sue you if you discuss it

UPDATE: After I wrote this Brandon published the letter in full and raised some provocative questions. (See below)


What bad news for The University of Queensland. Their entire legal staff were on holiday at the same time and this eminent university was protected only by a Law & Society 101 student who staffed the overnight service of FreeLegalAidOnline. A mockfest is ensuing across the Internet. It is so unfair.

A year ago John Cook published another 97% study (the magic number that all consensuses must find). It was published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (see Anthony Watts view). Cook’s work is obviously impeccable (except for the part about 97% being really 0.3%), but evidently it uses a special new kind of “open data”. The exact date and time each anonymized reviewer reviewed a sacred scientific abstract is commercial and must be kept secret. These volunteer reviewers allegedly stand to, er … lose a lot of money if that data is revealed (they won’t be employed again for no money?). Such is the importance of this that the University of Queensland left the data on secret-secret forum protected by no passwords and then put urls to [...]

Journal admits Lewandowsky paper retracted because it failed. Twice!

Relish this win.

Recursive Fury, the ideated paper that Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook and Michael Hubble-Marriott tried to publish early last year, was of such poor quality that it was placed in the scientific limbo-land of being not withdrawn, not retracted, and not published for almost 12 months. Lewandowsky previously published an article claiming skeptics believed the Moon Landing was faked, based on only 10 anonymous internet responses gleaned from sites that hate skeptics.  Recursive Fury made out that skeptics who objected this previous paper were barking-mad conspiracy theorists with nefarious intent.

Finally, a  week ago, the journal issued a strange but brief official retraction notice. Bizarrely, despite the ignominious failure, Lewandowsky and many others played the victim card, fanning the idea that legal threats had stopped them from publishing a paper that was otherwise academically and ethically fine. The howls of faux-outrage grew, as usual, over-played to the point where they became self-defeating.

Now Frontiers, the journal, already suffering from being associated with such dubious work, has finally had to set the record straight and defend their reputation. They had not caved in to bullying, or legal threats from the evil denier machine. Actually there were no threats at all, [...]