De Bello contra Scientiam - About the War on Science
By Baronet Pissequaffer Apeton, VP War on Science
Are we engaged in a war on science? You bet we are! On the ‘science’ that’s controlled by a small politico-scientific elite who have engineered a conspiracy of consensus about ‘global warming’ in order to support their clandestine push for a single world government. Readers might not realize just how pervasive this conspiracy has become. Each month, hundreds – thousands, by some counts – of articles consistent with the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are published in the corrupt, stinking morass of the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Furthermore, the national science academies of over 30 countries have issued statements of affirmation, as has every major scientific society that has published a position (see here). Against this mammoth level of collusion and what its subscribers call the ‘evidence’ behind it, you’d think that we deniers have an almost impossible task. How is it, then, that we’re managing to hold our own quite as well as we are? Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis! Following is an outline of the main points of our strategy.
First of all, we’re brilliant. Not we at the FoGT, you understand; even though we have a couple of PhDs on staff, we recognize we don’t have anywhere near all the smarts required to conquer the mountain of ‘evidence’ constantly being churned out by the global science community. However, we do have friends – small fringe organizations like the Friends of Science, who tell us they do have the relevant expertise. We like the Friends of Science; they’re like us. They’re Albertan, so they have the same political leanings as we do (we suspect they, like us, support the Wildrose Alliance); they’re old geologists and engineers, who’ve worked in the Western Canada Basin drilling the same well over and over for 35+ years; they’re computer experts, who’ve been able to use spreadsheets and fit regression lines ever since their slide rules became obsolete; and they don’t have minds sullied by the scientific literature of the past few decades because they’ve never needed to refer to it. Their long experience has made them supremely confident that they can jump into a complex field and quickly figure out an answer without having to stop to think whether the ‘first principles’ they’re starting from are really the appropriate ones. Analogous small organizations appeal to other audiences for the same reasons: we trust people who are like ourselves, and in these days of proliferation of mass media we limit our trust to the sources that most reflect our inclinations and preconceptions. Credo quia absurdum est!
And that leads to the second reason: there’s enough variety in the ‘information’ out there on any topic that people can choose to believe whatever makes them feel comfortable. Back in the good old days, journalists would try to be very sure of their facts and newspapers or networks would be held to, if not objectivity, at least basic standards of truth. Today, though, these ideals have been lost to relativism and you’ll hear journalists say “there is no such thing as objective truth” or “it is journalism’s role to reflect the prevailing orthodoxy”. Such a philosophy is wonderful for the journalists as it’s the perfect excuse for laziness, stupidity, prejudice, or all three. They don’t have to check their sources too deeply, and as long as other people out there – not just journalists but also bloggers, who can write whatever they want – are saying the same things, well, there’s safety in numbers if not in facts. The philosophy is evident in the demise of actual reporting and the proliferation of ‘opinion’ columns and ‘commentator’ spots, which are wonderful for the media owners wishing to promote their agendas because there’s no requirement for opinions to even pretend to objectivity or veracity; “it’s just so-and-so’s opinion, not necessarily endorsed by this newspaper”. And if an editor wants to appear ‘balanced’, that’s easy too: just engage somebody with a conflicting opinion – no matter if just as fact-free – and publish that tomorrow. Sic faciunt omnes!
Now, this state of affairs might feel a little uncomfortable to someone of such rigid moral fibre as myself, but we deniers must, after all, use everything we can to our advantage – and really, the opportunity it presents us is terrific. The combination of a lack of requirement for so-called facts and a few politically sympathetic opinion writers means we can get our scientific ideas and conspiracy theories in front of the public with a frequency totally out of proportion to their actual merit. Even in the unsympathetic (socialist) media, the deluded notion of ‘balance’ means that almost every item by or in support of the warmists can be followed by one of ours, completely skewing the public’s perception of the real degree of support for our position. Better still, because writers of mere opinion can be perfectly unoriginal and simply adopt each others’ views, one column generates many others – and all can be utterly non-factual! It was hilarious to read the papers after the ‘emailgate scandal’ and observe how often ‘hide the decline’ was asserted to mean thermometer manipulation, or ‘we can’t account for the cooling, and it’s a travesty’ was attributed to bearded woodsman Keith Briffa rather than moustachioed energy-meister Kevin Trenberth (whom I once brilliantly shut down with “non calor sed umor est, qui nobis incommodat”; he had no idea what I meant). That, my fellow deniers, could be evidence of media laziness or media conspiracy – but, who cares! All we need do is plant one seed and the weeds will spread! Having said that, however, there are occasions when we do have to counsel caution to our media friends. Some of them are so enthusiastic that wishful thinking is substituted in the rare pieces that are supposed to be factual, and that can get them into trouble. Perhaps they subscribe to modern journalism’s philosophy that ‘narrative is more important than truth’ a little more closely that they should. Stultus est sicut stultus facit!
A third reason for our disproportionate success is because, although we set no store in the corrupt, stinking morass of the peer-reviewed scientific literature, we’re not above using it to give ourselves an air of respectability. While there might be thousands of papers published every year consistent with or in support of AGW, the general public doesn’t know that. There’d be even more, but most manuscripts submitted to the highest-regarded journals are rejected. Nature, arguably the most prestigious journal and the most cited in climatology, has a rejection rate over 90%. Against these numbers, our denier friends occasionally come up with lists like the recent one of 450 peer-reviewed publications that support ‘skepticism’ about ‘man-made global warming’. Examination of that list showed the publications to be not peer-reviewed, not relevant, proved incorrect, or not challenging global warming at all, but, well, can’t blame us deniers for being triers. More effective is the echo-chamber of publicity that follows the appearance of the two or three papers per year that do make it into the ‘real’ peer-reviewed literature that really do challenge, or can be spun by their authors or fellow-travellers as challenging, some part of the ‘global warming’ picture. Now, these papers inevitably get proven wrong; but it takes time for refutations to appear, and in the meantime we make the most of them. The two we’ve had the most mileage out of in the past year and that illustrate the strategy beautifully were by Lindzen & Choi and McLean, de Freitas & Carter. We’re particularly proud of the second one, because one of the authors is advisor to our friends the Friends – our very own Chris de Freitas. Amicus certus in incerta re cernit!
These two were published in Geophysical Research Letters and Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, among the 10 most cited in climate science. What a coup! Lindzen & Choi purported to show that climate sensitivity – the global average temperature rise expected under a doubling of atmospheric CO2 – is only about 0.5C, rather than the ~3C of the consensus-conspiracy; and McLean et al. purported to show that the Southern Oscillation Index, a natural phenomenon, accounted for over 70% of the variation in global temperature – including the long-term trend – since 1979. Although their evident shortcomings were immediately attacked on warmist blogs, our denialist friends trumpeted their findings. The heroic Lord Monckton declared that Lindzen & Choi demonstrated once and for all that ‘the scare is over’, and McLean et al. put out press releases that spun so hard it was difficult for readers to hold on to the paper they were printed on. Meantime, the climate ‘science’ community scrambled to publish responses, and were left scratching their heads as to how these papers made it into the literature in the first place. This last question is an interesting one, but it’s certainly encouraging for us deniers. That the AGU published two-thirds of the denialist papers making it into the peer-reviewed literature in 2009 (this is the other one) is a sign that readers may expect to see more of our efforts directed there in the near future. We particularly fancy Geophysical Research Letters, because it provides quick turnaround - with, evidently, occasional consequent lapses in reviewing rigor - and although there’s nothing in its instructions to authors explicitly saying so, Comments pointing out flaws in published Letters are rarely accepted; they're usually published as independent papers, delaying their appearance and meaning that problems with the original ones are not as evident in the historic record. Lege atque lacrima!
All of the above ‘tricks’ (heh, we even hijack warmalarmist words) are designed to result in public confusion about the degree of agreement of the science and the scientists with the idea that human activity is influencing the climate. To promote this confusion further, we supplement it with occasional explicit statements denying the consensus: petitions, for example, signed by as many people as possible, in which most of the signatories are either inexpert in the relevant fields (and some of whom didn’t really sign up at all!); or attacks on the position statements of scientific societies where we don’t make it clear how tiny a proportion of the membership are requesting the change (which unfortunately sometimes backfires and results in stronger pro-AGW wording than before!). We also use the confusion to influence like-minded or ambitious lawmakers to target aspects of the science or individual scientists we consider particularly dangerous. We still claim victory from the Congressional inquiry into the ‘hockey stick’ temperature reconstruction, even though the National Academy of Sciences affirmed the original study’s conclusions, the analysis that purported to show it was incorrect has been demonstrated to be wrong, and there have since been numerous others that come to the same (warmist) conclusion. We continue to victimize its author – and to encourage the resulting perception that he is one of a small cabal of dangerous ideologues who are manufacturing the ‘consensus’ on climate change, rather than one of a very large number of scientists producing a large body of work that mostly, for reasons I’ve already reviewed, does not enter the public mind. Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
These strategies, dear reader, constitute the broad elements of our modus operandi in the War on Science – our ultimate aim in that war being to confuse the public, influence the lawmakers, and consequently delay action on