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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Modern Astrology in NY Times: Justin Gillis says Eclipses show all Scientists are always right about everything

Verily. Eclipses do weird things to people.

Justin Gillis, writer for The New York Times used the recent eclipse to sell something I’d call Sciencemagic. Essentially, if some Scientists™ can calculate orbital mechanics to a fine art, it follows, ipso nonfacto, that all people who use the same job title are also always right.

“Should You Trust Climate Science? Maybe the Eclipse Is a Clue”

Thanks to the work of scientists, people will know exactly what time to expect the eclipse. In less entertaining but more important ways, we respond to scientific predictions all the time, even though we have no independent capacity to verify the calculations. We tend to trust scientists.

If Scientists™ say that solar panels will stop malaria, then buy some! Save lives in Ghana. (What are you waiting for?)

The implications stretch far. Clearly, we can chuck out the whole research thing (labs, who needs em?) Why test predictions, if Scientists™ are 100% accurate? We’ve been wasting money. We don’t need more large hadron colliders, we just need to survey more particle physicists.

This idea that job titles have a kind of truth-telling power is not much different to astrology where truth [...]

The Green Blob expands: BBC wants Australian ratings. Their editor Wendy Frew heats Aust by 90C.

What’s better than Pravda? When Pravda is controlled by big government but masquerades as “commercial” and, even better, when it competes with and sucks money from independent competitors–making it harder for journalists who do ask the government hard questions to be heard at all.

Who needs the ABC?  The BBC has arrived to provide the propaganda for free and wants to compete with commercial news outlets. They’ve appointed the most gullible journalists they could find (who’ll believe any official edict). Their new Australian Editor, Wendy Frew, accidentally revealed that while she’s good at rearranging a press release and calling it news, she is not too good with numbers.

In a BBC article yesterday by Wendy Frew titled “Australia has hottest spring on record as temperatures soar” comes the extraordinary news that Australia has warmed by 90C since 1910.

“Australia has been warming up by about 0.9C [a year] since 1910,” Dr Braganza told the BBC.

The online article was fixed this morning (with no mention of the mistake), though copies of the error appear elsewhere. It says something that Frew went out of her way to add “[a year]“ into Braganza’s quote without doing the numbers and [...]

Who’s a conspiracy theorist then Paul Syvret?

Paul Syvret  seems to be hoping no one will notice that he doesn’t even try to respond to arguments about wind turbines. His technique to avoid debate is to decree that some other people were wrong once on a different topic. They used a rapid fire technique called a Gish Gallop, so therefore, thusly and henceforth anyone with a rapid fire technique can be dismissed with a handy wave of The Gish. It’s just another label in Syvret’s all-purpose excuse-list for not having a grown up conversation.

Those who have no evidence just make things up and toss insults. Syvret of The Courier Mail defends the wind industry from its critics — not with data about windfarms, but with allegations of imaginary astroturfing and denialism. He uses all his biggest scientific words: it’s “a barrage of BS”, “pseudo-science”, and a crusade run by a rat-bag in an incestuous network. He wants to make sure his readers know the critics are shills and conspiracy nutters because, well…  he says so.

The Australian Environment Foundation is his main target today. What’s it guilty of? Well, it links to unpaid bloggers that Syvret doesn’t like: those ” sites promoting climate-change denial (such as [...]

Three times as many Australians think the ABC has a pro-Labor bias

The ABC will declare that “most Australians don’t think the ABC is biased” but while half the nation thinks it’s balanced, 30% don’t know, and of the 20% who are sure there is bias, there are three times as many who think it’s pro-Labor as those who think it’s pro-Coalition. Bear in mind ABC1 only has about 10% of the Australian audience, so 90% of the nation prefers to watch something else. Did the survey ask respondents if they watch the ABC? We might find that of the 20% of the population who are familiar with ABC coverage, most think it’s biased to the left.  With some probing questions, we might also find that people of different political persuasions define bias very differently. Could it be that those more likely to vote for the Coalition tend to value free speech even if they don’t agree with the views?

On the other hand those more likely to vote Labor or Green seem to think balance means skeptics shouldn’t speak at all. Is their idea of bias just “if the ABC allows skeptics to comment”. The Centre for Independent Journalism had a whole forum devoted to asking whether “balance” meant they still [...]

The new world order – Black, Brown, and Soviet-red all over.

Scoff scoff scoff.  There is no global conspiracy to get One World Government. If there was, the leaders would have sent a memo to Bob Brown to be quiet, to Scientific American to rephrase the agenda, and to Richard Black to stay out of group photos at socialist events. So there is no central command, no invisible patriarch who pulls all the strings. But clearly there is a whole class of people who “know” what you need better than you do, and they know you need more governing. The regulating class. Shhhh.

First, the red shade of Black

Blacks Whitewash* has caught Richard Black (paid by the British taxpayer to be an impartial science reporter) taking an active part in a meeting of people who want to influence government policies. Quoting BlacksWhitewash:

“So the Outreach Group advises UNEP and it looks at how unelected NGO’s can better use the information within the GEO reports to pressure Governments. In the Network 2015 document there is a photo of the Outreach Group at the San Sebastian meeting:

There, behind a Felix Dodds and an Esther Larranaga, is Richard Black,  BBC journalist, a publicly funded broadcaster with a duty to remain impartial, [...]

ClimateGate II: Handy Guide to spot whitewash journalism – The top 10 excuses for scientists behaving badly

Sorting real journalists from sock puppets is not too tricky: real investigators tell you what the story is about; PR writers tell you what to think.

Do they “discuss” ClimateGate emails … without quoting the emails?

Who digs for details, and who hides the evidence?

The PR writers for Big-Government were quick to come up with excuses for ClimateGate II. Which is all very well, but it’s blindingly obvious where their own personal prejudices lie if they won’t print the emails that they are supposedly discussing. It’s not so much cherry-picking, but cherry-denial. “Don’t mention the radioactive cherries, but lets discuss how cherry farmers have been victimized, talk about the history of cherry tree farming, and hear their excuses and assertions that the cherries are an essential part of our diets. Don’t mention the Geiger counter. OK?”

The top 10 excuses for PR writers  who pose as “journalists” to ignore ClimateGate emails

This is standard issue damage control for ClimateGate — protect the cheats and liars, attack the whistleblower, and  use excuses and padding-fillers to cover a story without actually giving the public any information on the [...]

The Age does award winning PR — oops was that meant to be science?

RE: “Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions” by Michael Bachelard, The Sunday Age

———————————– For free, and just because I’m a nice person, I’m going to help Michael Bachelard with his science articles.

He’s a Walkley Award winner writing for the two largest “broadsheet” circulation papers in Australia. He knows indigenous issues, politics and industrial relations, so “climate science” was the … er, obvious next step, right?

The Age (and by default, it’s sister The Sydney Morning Herald) decided to pretend to investigate the most burning climate questions the public could offer. But their investigations apparently amounted to phoning up government agents and fans of the policy, and asking them what to write.


It’s titled: Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions, but it could have been titled Journalist: one inclined to parrot groupthink

Poor Bachelard is out of his depth in the science trying to answer Stephen Harper and Harry Hostan’s questions. For an investigative journalist he had odd ideas about how to get answers, almost never contacting the people or groups he wrote about directly. Who knows, maybe the servers at Fairfax don’t allow emails out to non-lefties at the moment, because he doesn’t seem to [...]

A journalist who confuses journalism with propaganda

Great news: This commentary appears in The Weekend Australian today (in a slightly different edited version). Below was what I submitted, before the edits, with the links intact. Comments are open at The Australian. I’ll be posting less often over the Southern Summer, possibly quite irregularly, so if you want to get an email from me and find out when the more important posts go up, please add your email to my list (top right, see “register”).

In the print edition the headline is “Journalists who think Newspapers should lead the country”*

David McKnight’s criticism of The Australian (Sceptical writers skipped inconvenient truths) makes a good case study of the intellectual collapse of Australian universities.

Here’s a UNSW “Senior Research Fellow” in journalism who contradicts himself, fails by his own reasoning, does little research, breaks at least three laws of logic, and rests his entire argument on an assumption that he provides no evidence for. Most disturbingly — like a crack through the façade of Western intellectual vigour — he actually asserts that the role of a national newspaper is to “give leadership”. Bask for a moment in the inanity of this declaration that newspapers “are our leaders”. Last [...]

How the BBC became a propaganda arm of the UK government (and WWF)

Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) and Tony Newbery (Harmless Sky) have put in a submission to the review of the BBC’s impartiality on science. It’s the anatomy of how government and activist groups take over an arm of a public broadcaster. There is no sneaking in the back door here.

The main problem facing government and policymakers was convincing the public that concern about anthropogenic global warming was well founded, and not just another scare story that would soon be forgotten. The Climate Change Communications Working Group (DEFRA, EST, UKCIP, Env. Agency, DTI, Carbon Trust) was set up, and in February 2005 received a Short List of Recommendations from Futerra, an environmental PR consultancy, on the means of conveying the required message to the media and the public . In August 2006, the IPPR produced a thirty-page report entitled Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better? which developed Futerra’s recommendations. This concluded that:

Many of the existing approaches to climate change communications clearly  seem unproductive. And it is not enough simply to produce yet more messages, based on rational argument and top-down persuasion, aimed at convincing people of the reality of [...]

Soul searching enviro-journalists admit they look duped and should have talked to sceptics

There is much introspection going on among environmental journalists. Last week, in a remarkably candid piece, Margot O’Neill of the ABC revealed for the first time what the flummoxed and frustrated would-be journalists are  discussing behind the scenes.

The admissions are extraordinary. Despite the fact that hardly any of the journalists wrote about Climategate, for many the emails from East Anglia were not just important, but a defining moment (though not, apparently, because it dented their faith in the global warming dogma). Instead, it was the effect Climategate had on editors and others in the office: people who had previously thought climate science was scientific, and environmental journalists were journalists. Suddenly, others realized they had been cheated of the real news, sideswiped by a development none of the supposedly “investigative” reporters saw coming.

Now for the first time, we find out that the formerly respected writers got looks of betrayal.

Probably the most important reaction to the UEA hacking for journalists was in their own newsrooms, among their own editors who are the gatekeepers controlling if your work appears and how prominently. While some UK surveys show no dramatic loss of credibility for climate scientists with the public, here’s how [...]