The infamous “Oregon Petition” is the source of the various climate change Denier claims that 17,000, 31,000, 60,000 etc scientists “have signed a petition that…”
Peter Sinclair does a nice presentation telling the basic story of the Oregon Petition, so I leave it to him:
The Oregon Petition
I well remember when the updated Petition was released last year. I immediately thought:
“Right. Real scientists would sign a petition organized by some one man Oregon backwater. They wouldn’t publish refutations of the science in the literature, nor bring it up at conferences and symposia, nor use the various professional organizations and societies at their disposal, nor work through the National Academies and various professional institutions. Nope, not a chance.
For sure they’d just sign an on-line petition put up by someone who can’t even manage decent HTML [It’s improved … the original was much worse]. Real credible … and who was supposed to believe this? brain damaged rodents? children who hadn’t read ‘How and Why Wonder Books’?”
Of course the petition turned out to be even more ridiculous than it initially seemed (links at bottom). Still, the Petition found an audience gullible and desperate enough to accept it as credible.
A history of the Petition in terms of the key players, and an excellent breakdown of the signatories can be found at “The Global Warming Debate” starting about 1/3rd down the page.
The most recent outbreak is in association with the NIPPC Report fraud. Some of the Denialophere are even claiming that the Petition’s signatories were affirming the validity of the NIPCC report, a report released a year after the Petition was.
In fairness it should be noted that the NIPCC report is nothing more than a rehash of the same nonsense of the earlier version that appeared last year, also after the Petition’s release. So even though it is still an absurdly idiotic claim, it is not necessarily as extreme as it seems.
What if the names were real?
There is one thing has always fascinated me about the Petition though … specifically, that even if it were not a fraud, it would still be meaningless, completely and utterly meaningless. The Deniers create so much Sturm and Drang about the validity of the names, and it doesn’t matter.
So, just for fun, let’s take a closer look at the Petition.
Gary Whittenberger assessed the methodology of the Petitions creation in Misleading by Petition: Just What is the Consensus on Global Warming? and concluded that:
“Arthur Robinson has solicited the opinions of the wrong group of people in the wrong way and drawn the wrong conclusions about any possible consensus among relevant and qualified scientists regarding the hypothesis of human-caused global warming.”
But let’s leave that aside too.
Robinson claims the Petition includes 31,000 scientists, 9,000 with PhDs (and the other 22,000 have what credential that makes them “scientists”?). Let’s pretend they’re all real scientists.
If the premise is that this is a HUGE number (as many in the Denialosphere have tried to claim, and still do), then what is our basis for comparison?
In the US alone there are an estimated 2,685,000 scientists. The OISM sent out their call to a subset of the mailing list of American Men and Women of Science and it got broadly passed around the Denialosphere … and they managed to get a mere 1.2% of the American scientific community.
Except, notwithstanding the extreme parochialism of the American Deniers, climate change is actually a global issue. It involves the global scientific community (who knew?), and the Petition has international signatories, so the real baseline for comparison is the global community.
It’s a fair bet that a far larger proportion of the scientific community smoke Gitanes, or collects antique watches, or are certifiably insane … all of which are just as meaningless as the Petition.
As is so often the case, clever readers have made variants of this point in the comments on this page, as have other blogs (I trained as an academic … I do not have original thoughts ;-) ).
Now, to his credit Robinson noted that “Science shouldn’t be done by poll, he explains. “The numbers shouldn’t matter. But if they want warm bodies, we have them.” ASIDE: “ warm bodies” is not literally true since a number of the signatories are dead and/or fictional. However, the observation that science is about facts, not numbers, is true.
Of course this same point is generally put forward by the Deniers as a pretext for dismissing the scientific consensus. Asking people to take anyone’s word based on solely credential would be an ‘Appeal to Authority‘ logical fallacy. An irrelevant dismissal since the consensus is merely a professional assessment of the validity of the science underlying our understanding of climate change.
The premise of the Petition is not that for some mysterious reason the signatories do not accept the scientific consensus, but that they agree with the ‘science’ (alleged) that accompanied the Petition.
So what about the science?
That alleged “science” is a ridiculous collection of distortions, errors, and outright falsifying of data (no surprises there). It is so bad that no one with any knowledge of climate science and a shred of integrity could take it seriously.
Given that it is total gibberish, 31,000,000,000,000 signatures couldn’t save it. Not surprisingly most people note this fact and move on.
But let’s consider this a bit further. Not all of the signatures are bogus, and many of the real ones do have some sort of scientific credential.
Given that, what does their signature on the Petition actually mean?
I suggest that in effect, the signatories have made at least one, and possibly both of two statements, albeit inadvertently. They are saying that:
1) I, the undersigned, in an act of flagrant professional misconduct, stake my professional reputation and credibility on an issue that I have not the slightest understanding of. Further, I attest to the validity of a document that I do not understand, or most probably did not even read.
2) I, the undersigned, carefully reviewed the ‘science’ accompanying this petition, and I am clearly so uninformed and/or incompetent that I stake my professional credibility on what is obviously nonsense.
Regardless of which, to the extent that some of the names on the Petition are real, what we have here is a list of those who have self-identified as guilty of misconduct and/or total incompetence. After the professional Deniers, they are probably the last people you would want to consult for any sort of opinion about climate change.
What about their professional credibility?
What if a petition appeared where 31,000 medical practitioners claimed that cancer was caused by thinking impure thoughts? or 31,000 professional electricians which claimed that electricity could and should be conducted through spaghetti rather than metal wires?
I imagine that in either case the respective professional associations would be curious about who’s names appeared on those petitions, and maybe even wish to discuss their qualifications with them.
I am not advocating any sort of witch hunt for the Oregon Petition signatories. I am pointing out that when anyone uses their credential as a source of authority, they are the ones who have made their professional competence an issue. Having made it an issue, it is then fair game for others to call that competence into question.
- Even if the names were real, and
- even if methodology wasn’t hopelessly flawed, and
- even if the number of signatories actually was significant, and
- even if the signatories were competent and had actually read the document,
it would still be utterly meaningless. It is the science and only the science that counts.
As Robin Williams said:
Reality, what a concept!
In reality, to the extent that there are real names on the Petition, what we have is a declaration of professional misconduct and/or incompetence.
Surely a cause for profound embarrassment. The signatories may want to contemplate that before they stake their reputations (such as they now are) on anything else.
Some articles which discuss the Oregon Petition
- The Oregon Petition : Deltoid
- Oregon petition: it’s back : Deltoid
- Oregon petition warmed over : Deltoid
- Sydney Writers’ Festival 2009: Stories from the Climate Change Front : Deltoid
- Misleading by Petition: Just What is the Consensus on Global Warming?
- The Oregon Deception Project…..
- Oregon Institute of Science and Malarkey
- One more Petition, still a consensus « Climate Change
- Of moles and whacking: Oregon Petition, Redux « The Way Things Break
- One Blue Marble Blog Climate Change Myth #2: Many climate scientists still have doubts!
- Richard Littlemore | New Oregon Petition Promoter “Not Sufficiently Rational” to Advise Tobacco Industry
- Richard Littlemore | Flawed Oregon Petition Rises Again
- Kevin Grandia | Infamous Oregon Global Warming Petition Alive and Well
- oregon institute of science and medicine
- Art Robinson
- Oregon Petition
- Debunking the Oregon Petition Project
- debunked Oregon Petition on global warming
- Ignore Oregon petition
- Infamous Oregon Global Warming Petition
- RealClimate scientists take on latest manifestation of global warming disinformation campaign
- Petitioning on climate, part 1
- Petitioning on climate, part 2
- Lawrence Solomon is at it again…
- 31,000 “Scientists” (Some Dead) Refute Global Warming
- An angry letter, a petition, and…? « International Journal of Inactivism
- Oregon Petition: The MusicalAnonymuse comes through again …….
- Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (Wikipedia)
- Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (SourceWatch)
- The Oregon Petition
UPDATE: Aug 2nd
There is a comprehensive breakdown of the signatories at 2. The Scientific Consensus « The Global Warming Debate (begin about 1/3rd down the page).
Now add to that the equally comprehensive, but somewhat different analysis from Scholars and Rogues » 31,478… 13,245… 152 OISM “scientists” can’t be wrong where Brian does a much more detailed look at how representative the signatories are of their various disciplines.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 258 … still no evidence.
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