.Last week Ian Plimer seemed to be just another climate change Denier who apparently wouldn’t know real science if it chewed his leg off.
Now with the evolving debate with Monbiot it seems to me that there are three major aspects to the Plimer story, which like all good stories is really about meta-stories playing themselves out in small.
The Phantom Science
First there is the issue of the well documented lack of actual substance to Plimer’s “science” generally. A case in point is back in May when Deltoid very helpfully sourced one of Plimer’s graphs to that appalling piece of garbage “The Swindle” (Plimer claimed he couldn’t recall where he got it). It’s worth going to Deltoid and playing with the graphic ;) Three points to make, what kind of researcher:
- can’t recall/didn’t document the source for a significant piece of evidence for his main point?
- uses a source well known to be a fiction/fraud?
- lies about 1. to try and hide 2.
Seriously … this person is supposed to be a research scientist? for real?
Tamino’s latest post Do you believe Ian Plimer? « Open Mind nicely illustrates (again) the core problem. Tamino absolutely annihilates yet another one of Plimer’s stupidies
NONE of these supervolcanic eruptions caused an increase in atmospheric CO2 of 100 ppm, on any time scale, let alone “in a day.” None of them even comes close. In fact, it’s hard to note any definitive effect of supervolcanic eruptions on atmospheric CO2.
however, (as always) it takes about the same amount of space and time to refute it as it takes Plimer to spout a dozen more such stupidities Unleashed: Legislative time bomb. (See Plimer is not entitled to his own facts for more on that).
Worse (!?), Tamino’s post requires some thought (which some find stimulating, even enjoyable) and offers the opportunity to learn a little about the world. By contrast, if you can say “CO2 is good” then you’ve pretty much got the essence of what Plimer has to say. Which means that once again the Deniers are able to reach a broad audience by using simplistic lies dressed up as science, while real science remains the ever popular “healthy diet and lots of exercise” option.
Plimer strike back
Second, there is the issue of Plimer’s “questions” in the Monbiot / Plimer debate. As discussed, they are a load of bollocks meant to impress his fans, but that still leaves the question of how to respond to them, if at all.
Attempting to “answer them” as stated is not possible. As Chris Colose notes “It would take a book describing the scientific problems, …“, and several of the questions are major research projects on their own. Even so, whether Monbiot would be interested in it or not, there is definite value to exposing Plimer’s shoddy tactics to a wider audience by:
- take the core issues hiding in each question (as identified by Andrew Dodds) and answering that;
- deconstructing the questions and demonstrating why they are gibberish.
Apparently Andrew is already expanding on his notes and will be posting it at Open Mind, so that work is more or less done. I do not know if he intends to include the refutations, but since it is all just repetitions of Plimer’s standard memes, that work is already done as well.
Which leaves the issue of an accessible, but informed deconstruction of the questions. Still a relatively daunting task if it’s to be understood by the lay reader. For example, the average person has no concept of just what mountains the simple phrase “from first principles” hides, Explaining that it does, how and why, is a minor essay on it’s own regardless of context.
It seems Marion Delgado has already begun a wiki project to address the questions. I do not know that deconstruction is the direction that he wants to take it, but it’s part of what he is creating and the format lends itself to broader participation. Interested parties may want to touch base with him and see how he wants to move ahead with that.
As for Plimer’s use of these questions, Richard Littlemore pretty much sums it up in Ian Plimer: Climate change denier AND annoying git, but unfortunately that may not be the popular perception.
Based on many of the comments at Monbiots blog and the others that are covering the issue (eg here, here, here) the general consensus is that Plimer has shot himself in the foot. However, as evidenced by other comments (and on this blog), the faithful remain as fervent as ever. In time the facts will filter down to the public, by which point the popular press and Denialosphere will have further entrenched Plimer’s nonsense.
A lie can make it half way around the world before the truth has time to put its boots on.
Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain
Apropos of debating climate change deniers and creationists Robert Grumbine was kind enough to bring this site to our attention: Playing Chess with Pigeons. The site takes it’s name from this all too relevant quote :
“Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.”
- Scott D. Weitzenhoffer
We repeatedly note the similarities between the evolution and climate Deniers, primarily because they are just sub-catagories of the broader issue of scientific literacy. A ominous point worth noting is the relative lack of success the creationist debunkers have had, an issue I will be returning to in future posts.
Revenge of the Plimer
The third theme is described by finishing the Chris Colose quote “It would take a book describing the scientific problems, and much more importantly, the psychology behind Plimer’s tactics .” To me this begs the question of how much of this is calculation versus desperation?
Unfortunately I do not mean to explore the social pyschology of why and how this tactic works. That fascinating topic will have to wait for a whole series of posts. For now I am puzzled by the personal motivation, the more so because of what commenter Robert Stevens brought to our attention.
The “Appeal for donations to the Professor I.R. Plimer Fighting Fund” seems to be a legitimate appeal by the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits as it appears on a now moribund ‘website‘ from a decade ago. As it states, the appeal it to help Plimer out with the many expenses and penalties he incurred in what sounds like fairly no holds barred confrontations with Creationists.
If Plimer was such a staunch Creationist debater then he comes by his tactics “honestly”, as it were. They would all have been used against him more or less constantly. From Gish Gallop to Bafflegab, that’s all the Evolution Denier position is; and as a Climate Change Denier, that’s all Plimer’s position is.
So how are we to understand this? Is Plimer consciously using the tactics he knows full well to be the tools of the vapid and vacuous? techniques he must at one time have loathed for the cheap charlatanry that they are? Does he even know what he is doing?
Or has he always been an opportunist who used any weapon that came to hand? Is this how he engaged with the Creationists when he did? although he would not have needed to since Evolution, like climate science, has actual facts and evidence.
Or is this some sort of grotesque George Lucas saga wherein by using the tools of the corrupt Plimer has become the very thing he once fought? Ian Plimer as Anakin Skywalker? is that what we are dealing with? Best not venture down that road too far before we get Luke Monbiot and Obi Wan Schmidt (Eli Raboda? R2Tamino?)
Still, it’s curious that a man who apparently was once such a pro-science champion has become such an anti-science thug. Or perhaps objective science has never mattered at all? maybe all along it has been just what he happened to believe in versus ‘the other’. A much more tawdry tale, but the notion of consistency of behaviour is more credible, for Plimer, and for more than a few of the other Deniers.
This warming trend has been particularly pronounced during the pre-monsoon month of May, which is now on average 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1970’s. The Indian Ocean warmed to a much lesser extent during this period, enhancing the temperature gradient between the ocean and the land. Earth Gauge
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 291 … still no evidence.
Comments that are not relevant to the post that they appear under or the evolving discussion will simply be deleted, as will links to Denier spam known to be scientific gibberish