Guest post by Martha
It seems like only yesterday that American scientist Judith Curry announced her arrival on the blogosphere. She has created a blog based on the idea that climate change deniers are good for science and she insists deniers are skeptics, compelled to expose what they (and she) see as the ‘corruption’ of climate science and the peer review process.
While she brandishes a contrarian sword she strongly presents as disinterested in the usual denier conspiracy theories about a one-world government plot threatening the free market economy.
Judith Curry asserts she is independent of all that. She is the right scientist: the good scientist. She denies any ulterior motives that might be perceived negatively by others.
Sure, she has disclosed a small private commercial venture associated with the resources and students at her academic institute, but this is not generally viewed as problematic (although maybe it should be). While attempts to downplay or dismiss the scientific consensus on climate change are not new, especially for ideological or profit motives, she insists she is only interested in the scientific evidence.
‘I am right’.
Judith Curry sometimes posts bone-dry data, which I guess at least ensures the appearance of some examination of the science. However, it is apparent that she doesn’t let the most current research or huge holes in her basic knowledge hold her back. She litters her blog with posts that are a curious grab-bag of recycled denier arguments and irrelevancies that she calls ‘common sense’.
Apparently being right requires an abundance of false misleading comments, deliberate confusion and other mischief-making. Her juxtaposition of serious claims to science with what amounts to denier ad copy is bizarre. She disputes whatever she can think of and excoriates colleagues as often as possible.
It is impossible to ignore how often she makes facile mistakes. In one small but typical example, I recall how she expressed great excitement about what she identified as a ‘new’ paper just provided to her by a student. She had examined the paper and felt it would seriously impact the direction of the next IPCC report, along the lines of her own concerns.
It was a party-crasher when I noted that the paper was 7 years old, familiar to many people, discussed in the science, and referenced in AR4. (Privately, of course, I wondered why neither she nor all the commenters were unable to read a date at the top of a paper, or at least recognize the general vintage of research.)
She responded that she has become so busy and interested in new things and people that such a mistake is understandable. Her comments, she argued, stand – as did the promotion of other work by co-author Pielke Sr, who arrived to promote both of them, to their mutual delight.
And so it goes, with a Judith Curry ad post. Indeed, post after post is such tired and thinly masked ad copy that she must supplement it with her own sagging psychological processes.
‘I am good’.
Judith Curry frequently presents herself as morally superior. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, she also seems to believe that the CRU incident involves a morally motivated whistleblower. A host of dubious claims on denier sites and in the media have tried to portray this sensationaistl story, but not an accurate story. Judith Curry’s clear preference for romanticizing the wilder shores of denialism has nothing to objectively recommend it, but it does likely serve a crucial psychological purpose in the service of her beliefs.
Basically, it’s a simple formula. She ensures she is not responsible for what she says by mostly relying on re-posting what others say. If it’s wrong, she is not responsible because someone else said it. This is a magical key to the avoidance of accountability. Hence she is still “good” (and deserving of attention).
So what if post after post is breathlessly error-filled or that some aspects of reality appear too problematic for her? She sees a certain charm in the way she sticks to her guns no matter what anybody says. And she is combing through old issues and going to set things straight for the good of us all, by golly.
‘Some dysfunctions of sexism’.
Judith Curry recycles what all other denier blogs say, while dressed up in a skirt, to the applause of a cadre of old fashioned, mostly retired males who express a high level of rivalry with scientists. Frankly, the whole thing is like watching a skit from 1950’s era college interaction. I have to admit, it was interesting for a few minutes if only because of these dynamics, especially since it enables her to ignore all threats to her ego.
Together, they employ the strategy of suggesting that attacks on her are inherently sexist. Since we live in a sexist society, there is unfortunately always that possibility; however, given that I have seen more attacks on her blog directed at me and other women, by men expressing unusual contempt for women who challenge Judith Curry, I would say it’s a perceptual reversal.
I can also say that I don’t think there is any of the usual quasi-pornographic perceptions of her going on in their defense of her, eg I don’t think they are diminishing her by envisioning her in leather. However, there is something perhaps even more unsettling about a grown woman who likes to play mischief-making little girl to a group of dissatisfied men.
Is it tied to the inferiority complex of a woman whose entry to science was facilitated by an affirmative action program? Probably not, because she seems to be in possession of an ego that assumes its own merit. However, since she does want to need to be the central figure in her own universe, it raises other questions for thoughtful women and men.
We live in a culture where girls traditionally have not been the centre of the universe as often as boys. It’s understandable if she has needed to matter more than she has. So perhaps she set her sights on science, filtering ambition through a discipline that was traditionally male dominated.
For whatever reasons, perhaps she again feels she doesn’t matter, so has decided she should be the major character in a story now of her own creation. Her sense of blogosphere celebrity is neither meaningful nor important, but it does provide her with the attention and protection of a like-minded group who cries ‘more, more!’ when she performs for them.
Further, we have to understand that she gets power from her protectors, and that there are benefits to playing the victim. Mostly, she is reassured that she matters – but not in a way that requires any responsibility-taking and honesty for what she says or does.
Her protectors are reassured that they matter, too, and they share the same personal and political illusions. All in all, there are enough lollipops to go around. Judith Curry has either erased or doesn’t remember her previous accomplishments; either that, or previous accomplishments were based in similar dysfunctional gender dynamics.
She recycles hysterical accusations of misleading use of data, but also routinely demonstrates that she is herself incapable of the most basic internet and reading skills. She treats Republican press releases as if they are statements of fact. Where it is possible to follow up on her sources of information, she is often found to be satisfied with seriously misrepresenting information or just making things up.
Many of her posts reveal surprising ignorance about domestic and international decision-making considerations and mechanisms, and almost no ability to relate to the human dimensions of impacts. Skills for media analysis are completely absent.
Her strongest enthusiasm is reserved for posts that recycle fears about the potential for policy to impose targets that she believes will threaten individual freedoms in America, and her country’s industrial competitiveness. She describes the evidence for human-caused climate change as ‘mixed’. She pretends that there isn’t an enormous body of climate science research that provides overall evidence and a basis for CO2 emissions reductions.
She can (and probably will) continue to insist that she is only interested in scientific evidence, even though this is clearly at odds with posts filtered through the lens of a simple-minded free market Bush-era perspective that relies on tricks and horsepoop to stretch and distort the science.
Judith Curry can’t explain her special insights or why she considers her response to the scientific evidence to be more rational than that of most colleagues. She uses the language of hierarchy to represent her operating assumptions, and places not only her reasoning but her status above colleagues, other women, children, and the natural world. Clearly she has a standpoint.
Yet in posts where she wishes to highlight the ‘corrupting’ influence of ‘groupthink’ on other climate scientists, she shows herself entirely unable to examine or discuss her own assumptions or the filter through which she views things, preferring instead to assume her own superior objectivity and hope that nobody notices. Of course, on her blog, pretty much nobody does.
In bursts of especially creative activity, she appeals to an idea or two from theories of the social construction of knowledge or philosophy of science. While she is evasive about explaining exactly how a massive IPCC ‘groupthink’ could have happened, she hints that it might have something to do with Thomas Kuhn.
She is drawn to an entirely opportunistic use of relativist arguments, however, which she uses to dismiss her colleagues – without realizing that she has not ensured an escape hatch for her own captive subjectivity.
It’s remindful of magazine cartoonist Bill Maul cartoon depiction of the figures inside a classical snow-scene paperweight saying ‘how do we know we’re not inside someone else’s paperweight?’
‘The picture of libertarian womanhood’. The more women rise up against deniers, the more we all rise up. My guess is that Judith Curry will not be viewed positively by other women, and for good reasons. She gives herself no guidelines for being accurate or honest, and her support of efforts to deny the scientific consensus on the extent of human-caused climate change and its significance are based on the deliberate use of ideology to downplay the communication of the science and mask obedience to Bush-era politics.
While I sympathize with her status anxiety and her dependence on males for feelings of self-worth, her blog is flagrantly abusive and indifferent to the those set to suffer the most from climate change, especially women and children with no resources to cope.
There is no question about climate change or the nature of the crisis. A realistic economic understanding, from any political perspective, recognizes this. If for no other reason than their motivation to try to retain a market share, corporations already understand this. Judith Curry does too, but she is completely unable to examine her own beliefs.
Like a plastic doll, she has re-purposed herself and regularly updates her clothes and accessories on her blog. Sure she has a science job, ambition, and rooted hair and eyes: but she is just a libertarian cut-out doll, and we need to look afresh at this version of sexism.
Unfortunately, all Judith Curry shows other women is that with enough professional status, conservative belief, time and money – you too can have a blog full of patronizing old men.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
It is worth knowing and abiding by whether you comment on this blog or not.
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