Monthly Archives: March 2010

Climategate investigation: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for

HOT OFF THE PRESS

Climategate, the affair over the stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University is officially no longer a scandal. The UK’s Parliamentary Science & Technology Committee began their investigation late last year. It was established to investigate the following allegations:

The Independent Review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

2. Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

3. Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.

4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds .

Climategate gave the denial movement the opportunity to push their claims into the mainstream media, and clearly had an impact on public perception.

It’s here! What does it say?

The report has just been released and it is  good news. In short, the science behind climate science is solid. Claims that scientists acted fraudulently are misplaced:

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

Rightly, the Committee calls for more disclosure of data and methodologies:

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jone’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

Other investigations: claims of deniers dismissed

Already we have seen the following claims of the denial movement debunked:

  • Amazongate – claims that the IPCC overstated the impact of climate change on the Amazon rain forest by relying on a WWF press release have proven to be groundless.
  • Michael Mann manipulated data to “fake” climate change – Mann’s employer, Pennsylvania State University investigated these claims and found there was no basis to the allegations. According to the report released: “After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data. While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State.”
  • The head of the IPCC has been cleared of any charges of “financial irregularities – Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman has been audited and found clear of the so called “follow the money” argument: “KPMG, the professional services company, examined the personal finances of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after media suggested late last year that he received money for advising several private sector companies, including Toyota and Credit Suisse. The review found these were all paid to Mr Pachauri’s non-profit organisation TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), which commissioned KPMG.”

One by one, the major claims of the denial movement have been dismissed.

Watch how they spin this into a victory about breaking “the culture of secrecy”. However the most  important facts are (1) the science is solid, (2) the charges of scientific fraud are baseless and (3) greater transparency will mitigate future claims made by the denial movement.

Addendum: This is the denial movements “Dover Moment”

A few weeks back I suggested the denial movement should be careful for that they wish for: the chance to put climate science “on trial”. Well, it would seem this was such an opportunity. If one reads the submissions you will see all the luminaries of the denial movement attempting to cast doubt on the science and attack the reputation of scientists – including a submission from our old friend Richard S. Courtney. [Hi Richard!]

It was a major effort on behalf of the denial movement to exploit the stolen CRU emails  to discredit the science. And it failed spectacularly.

It was a co-ordinated “push” by the denial movement to influence the outcome of the inquiry. And it failed spectacularly.

It was the denial movement’s attempt to legitimise their claim the science was “fraudulent”. And it failed spectacularly.

This is their “Dover moment”: when two sides disputing a scientific question are given equal opportunity to present their arguments and evidence (see Putting climate science on trial: what is the worst that could happen?). In Kitzmiller v Dover, the ID/Creationist movement was dealt a serious body blow. The climate change denial movement has just suffered an equally significant blow. This is what happens when the peddlers of propaganda attempt to take on science.

What’ next?

Let’s wait and see how the police investigation into the cyber-attack on CRU. I wonder which names we will see then?

Note: big thanks to PZ Myers at Phranygula for the shout out. Appreciated and unexpected! Cheers mate.

The Herald Sun’s War on Science #2: greens are by definition hypocrites

The HUN’s resident climate change denier Andrew Bolt has published a two page “demolition” of Earth Hour today. As usual it’s full of colourful language and laced with venom:

If I really thought man’s gases were heating the world so dangerously that, as Al Gore says, “the future of human civilisation is at stake”, I’d feel the call to do more than turn off some lights for just one hour a year…

…Here and there, the houses of green activists went dark. For one hour – and even then the fridge was left running, because we can’t let the peas defrost just to stop Armageddon. I mean, be reasonable…

…Reality check: anyone not already aware of the great global warming scare? Now, anyone doing much to actually “stop” it? Answer: bugger all. Judge that from Quantum Market Research’s annual social survey, undertaken to help advertisers understand what pushes consumers’ buttons. Quantum divided Australians into five groups, from “Ultra Greens” to Un-Greens”, depending on how they’d “embraced the Green culture”. No surprise, but the Ultra Greens, “the original tree loving hippies and green peace embracers”, turned out to be perfect specimens of our time. They were not only the most likely to vote Green and join green groups, but also the most likely to own a four-wheel drive and join frequent flyer clubs…

…What counts is how you seem, not what you do. Here are your modern read-the-label moralists, keen to give everything to their cause but sweat.”

The company whose research Bolt cites, Quantum Market Research is based in Melbourne. I’ve found a couple of reports on their website however they make no reference to “Ultra-Greens” and “Un-Greens”. Quantum seem to produce two large annual reports each year:

YouthSCAN
AustraliaSCAN

Most market research is available to only to those who pay for it: therefore I can’t say with any confidence what Quantum has to say about the “green market”. However, I would intimate that Andrew Bolt is misrepresenting their research. I’m very familiar with market research: it is often more nuanced than how Bolt is presenting it.

Indeed, I have contacted Quantum to clarify whether or not Bolt’s article is an accurate reflection of their research.

The obvious non-sequitur: Bolt’s faulty logic

Bolt hopes to imply that being green means you are by definition a “hypocrite”: this is an obvious non sequitur (a logical fallacy). It does not follow that one is a green and a hypocrite, just as it does not follow that one is a white Anglo-Saxon male and therefore (for example) homophobic because some are.

We can render this type of logic as follows:

  1. Men are human
  2. Patricia is a human
  3. Therefore Patricia is a man

To translate from the Latin, non sequitur, it does not follow that Patricia is a man.

However, I suspect Bolt understands this basic error in logic. What is important for his purposes is to “smear” the opposition with the charge of hypocrisy.

Once again, the HUN gives license to a rabid climate change denialist.

Inherit the wind: the bipartisian war on science by climate change denialists and religious conservatives

Who shall inherit the wind?

As one dives deeper into the literature of the denial movement, you come across the same names and arguments. What is even more striking is the deep links between creationism – a movement denying evolution – and climate change  denial.

Not only do these two anti-science movements share a disdain for science, but a similar world view. As I have noted previously the denial movement is very much centred in the US, and that many of it’s most prominent members are conservative Christians.

Roy Spencer is an example of someone on record for doubting both evolution and climate change. “Sceptical” bloggers such as Andrew Bolt and Jo Nova “import” a great deal of this material by republishing it on their own sites.

As it’s been demonstrated time and time again, both movements have a deep antipathy towards science, particularly it’s emphasis on methodological naturalism. Methodological what you ask?

Simply put science assumes only natural phenomena can explain the workings of the universe around us. It explicitly excludes supernatural phenomena as a means to explaining “how things work”.

Let’s take one example: earthquakes. In order to explain *why* earthquakes occur we must understand geology and plate tectonics. We don’t assume a god, or gods, got angry and shook the earth. There are good reasons for taking this approach which has a great deal to do with epistemology and the scientific method.

Let’s just say, it’s easier to guess how the earth’s continental plates may shift than try to divine the intention of an angry Earth god or goddess.

Inherit the wind: the conservative religious backlash against climate science

For some – not all, and I’d stress this – religious people methodological naturalism removes the need for a “creator” who “watches over” the world and individual human beings. It’s a deeply threatening position to take, as one cannot explain events by saying “This god did it”.

Whether that be the movement of continental plates or the creation of the universe, the default position of science is to remove a deity from any hypothesis. For some conservative Christians, the science of climate change is as deeply threatening as Darwin’s theory of Evolution. The reasons why conservative Christianity are “opposed” to climate science are complex, but it boils down to two reasons.

Firstly it implies God is “not in control”. Thus for some Christians it’s an almost existential fear: how could God allow the climate change and cause massive suffering without intervening? Better to believe the climate is not changing. Theodicy has never been able to explain away why a good God allows “evil things” to happen. Climate change is “an evil” almost beyond comprehension, and seriously calls into question God’s omnipotence. [2]

A perfect example of this line of thinking is Illinois Republican John Shimkus who blatantly states “only God can destroy the Earth”:

The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.

Secondly, this antipathy to climate science is a by-product of the “culture wars” in the US, in which science and scientists are perceived as godless liberals, hostile to Christian beliefs. Therefore, anything scientists have to say on a topic should be treated with deep scepticism.

So, what does this diversion into the philosophy of science and creationism have to do with the denial movement?

Well, as I like to say “Everything”. [wink]

A great deal of the material produced by the denial movement is authored – and aimed for consumption by – conservative Christians.

Want further evidence? Let’s look at a recent example of this on Jo Nova’s blog where she promotes a recent publication by conservative Christian, Art Robinson.

Jo Nova: net importer of conservative religious propaganda

When the results of science don’t agree with your politics, there is only one thing to do: declare all science “corrupt”. Not just climate science, but all science. In her ironically titled post “The truth shall make you free” West Australian denier Jo Nova cites a recent publication by Art Robinson a well-known climate change “sceptic”.

The thrust of article is that science has been corrupted by government grant money, allowing a small group of non-scientists to control the outcome of scientific research:

“A relatively small group of fourth-rate scientists, who would never be scientists at all under the standards that prevailed 50 years ago, have received huge grants of research funds and extensive mainstream media notoriety by – there is no polite way to put this – lying about climate science in order to provide political cover for the U.N. political agenda. By all objective standards of inquiry, the hypothesis they promote is not just unproved; it is definitively disproved by the experimental and observational research record…”

This is the standard conspiracy claim made by most of the denial movement – it’s the classic “follow the money” argument. We’ve heard this many times before, both from the movements “official” spokespersons and the foot soldiers who plague Internet forums and the comments section of online newspapers. Robinson’s paper itself contains barely any citations, is strictly an opinion piece and is largely incoherent.

Robinson finishes his piece with a rather nasty revenge fantasy:

“…Are our best scientists blameless in this? Again, no. They have watched passively as their profession, which depends upon absolute honesty, is represented by dishonest people in public forums – and many have not spoken in opposition to these misrepresentations. If they permit this to continue, the inevitable backlash will eventually come. When that happens, the true scientists will suffer right along with the pseudo scientists – a reward they both will richly deserve.”

What “reward” Robinson hopes scientists to receive is not clear, though I’m pretty sure it involves fire and brimstone.

Who is the intended audience for Robinson’s paper?

This is not the language of science, or even reasoned political debate. It’s conservative Christian propaganda by conservatives for conservatives. It makes wild accusations without any references to the scientific literature.

There is little point taking apart the claims made by the paper. I have neither the time or inclination to correct it’s many factual inaccuracies (however at the end of these article I’ve explored one claim which is easily refuted). Reading Robinson’s paper one is immediately struck by the explicit references to God:

“In the second edition of the “Principia,” in which he published most of his discoveries in physics, Newton writes:

The true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful being. His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity. He governs all things.

Newton wrote only three books – the “Optics,” the “Principia,” and “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John.” Averaged over the course of his life, he divided his time equally between his physics and his Bible, believing that his physics was a biblical ministry. To Dr. Bently he wrote, “When I wrote my Treatise about our System [the “Principia”], I had an Eye upon such Principles as might work with considering Men, for the belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that Purpose.”

Science is a search for truth among the things that man can see. The Bible teaches that there are things that man can see and those that he cannot see – “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and “we see through a glass darkly.” It teaches that “the truth shall make you free” – the truth about both things seen and things not seen.”

And this is the opening paragraphs.

When I first read the paper I was surprised by how heavily it was influenced by a religious outlook: “Is this paper serious?” I asked myself. But then I was able to make the connection between conservative Christianity’s rejection of a great deal of science.

Right from the beginning Robinson is citing biblical authority over science. I’m not criticising Robinson’s spiritual beliefs – these are his own – but in science explicitly putting faith before empirical evidence is a major red flag. The scientific method is built around methodological naturalism, the very opposite of Robinson’s approach. In addition to the above, Robinson’s paper is sprinkled with religious references. Here he is talking about the “golden age” of science during the 1940’s and 1950’s:

Most American scientists of that era held to strong Judeo-Christian principles. The majority were dedicated Christians and Jews, with the remainder largely following the custom and culture of those principles. Most were politically conservative. They had just fought and won a great war against government tyranny and did not think tyranny could ever come to their country.

The import of Robinson’s argument is clear: science was good when most scientists were dedicated Christians and Jews”. Today there are less Christian and Jewish scientists, ergo there is a problem with science. Can anyone else see the glaring non sequitur?

The paper contains numerous links to WorldNetDaily (WND), a “news service” with very strong evangelical Christian leanings. Indeed it not only questions climate science but evolutionary science. The WND is well recognised as a the home for all kinds of fringe beliefs, including musings on the apocalypse, the Antichrist and other “end times” subjects. Amongst the science community it is a recognised vehicle for all kinds of wackiness.

Throughout Robinson’s paper there many links to WND articles clearly demonstrating it is intended to be consumed by an evangelical audience.

Why would Nova promote such a piece?

Many of the sceptics I’ve encountered are horrified to associated with creationism. They can’t see the similarities between the two anti-science movements, however they have enough sense to recognise that creationism is a fringe belief.

The interesting question for me is why would Nova promote such a piece? In the extracts she cites from the paper she explicitly removes all references to God: she tones down the heavy religious overtones of Robinson’s paper. Is that she didn’t read the paper in full? I ploughed through it in fifteen minutes, and understood very clearly the authors world view.

Perhaps it is a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend?”.

Perhaps. Or is it possible that Nova herself has some sympathy with the more conservative Christian values as many of the deniers in the US? Hard to say as I can’t find any references to Nova’s religious beliefs. Of course, one is entitled to their own beliefs about God and the origin of the universe. But, if your religion clouds your understanding of science, and you spend your time trying to discredit climate science then it is a legitimate question to ask.

However, whatever her motivations are, one thing is very clear.

Robinson’s paper, and Nova’s promotion of it to the denial movement in Australia, makes it very clear both movements will happily wage a bipartisan war against science to further their own interests.

Appendix: Robinson claims there is “no observational proof” for climate change

Robinson puts forward on the most common denialist assertions on pages 8-9 of his “report”:

“Promoted by United Nations projects, primarily the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and related activities, and funded by tens of billions of dollars in “research” funds, the “climate change” business is now in full swing. Astonishingly, there are no experimental or observational facts that support the hypothesis of catastrophic human-caused global warming – not even one. This hypothesis is supported entirely by computer models that do not conform to experiment…”

This is a disingenuous claim. The science behind climate change is not reliant upon computer models. Indeed, there is a wealth of observational proof. To pick but one example, see the CSIRO’s recent “State of the Climate Report” which utilises historical data related to rainfall and temperature stretching back over 100 years. There are thousands of good quality research papers out there that also confirm that climate change is directly attributable to human activities. I’d suggest starting with this list of papers from AGW Observer.

Notes to article

[1] SourceWatch notes Robinson as a “…conservative Christian”

[2] I’m familiar with the problem of evil and debate around the issue, please don’t bombard me with statements about how contemporary philosophy treats the issue of “evil”.

Importing the craziness: yes Andrew, Laurie Oakes article was was aimed at you…

Laurie Oakes is one of Australia’s most respected and experienced political journalists. He recently published a rather refreshing and interesting article in the Herald Sun about the just how poisonous the political debate is in the US and how this is fuelled by what he terms “craziness”

“WINGNUTS – people on the lunatic fringe of politics – are winning in America. A new poll just about puts it beyond doubt. Released a few days ago, it shows that 40 per cent of Americans believe Barack Obama is a socialist, a third think he’s Muslim, three out of 10 fear he “wants to turn over the sovereignty of the US to a one-world government”, and 14 per cent agree that the President “may be the anti-Christ”. 

Phew! 

 Can a whole country go crazy? 

It makes you wonder. Australians, thank goodness, are still pretty sane when it comes to politics. Plenty of us are unimpressed by Kevin Rudd or have less-than-flattering views of Tony Abbott, but we don’t go overboard. We can still have a civilised and relatively civil political discourse in this country. It is important we keep it that way… The debate over health reform here and in the US gives a good indication of how fortunate we are, but it also provides a warning of what could happen if we are not careful.” 

He warns against our own political debate becoming “infected” by this same disease. What is that this grab bag of opinions have in common?

A conspiratorial world view. 

Oakes did not cite those percentages of belief for those other fantasists: the creationists and climate change denialists. If you look at the percentages of people in the US who believe that evolution is “not true” (at least 25% deny it and 36% are not sure according to this Gallop poll) and those who  believe global warming is due to natural causes (see 46% according to this Gallop poll) you will see that many in the US have an issue with understanding science. 

This alone does not prove anything. So let’s have a look at the Gallop poll related to climate change. It asks respondents if there is a scientific consensus on whether or not global warming can be attributed to human activity: 

“Since last fall, there have been widespread news accounts of allegations of errors in scientific reports on global warming and alleged attempts by some scientists to doctor the global warming record. These news reports may well have caused some Americans to re-evaluate the scientific consensus on global warming. Roughly half of Americans now say that “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,” down from 65% in recent years. The dominant opposing thesis, held by 36% of Americans, is that scientists are unsure about global warming. An additional 10% say most scientists believe global warming is not occurring…” 

As far as the scientific consensus goes its pretty much unanimous. However many people now believe scientists either overstate it’s importance or are actively fabricating data to make it look like it’s happening. 

Indeed, this is the very craziness that Oakes is referring too.

When a large percentage of your electorate believes scientists and politicians are actively conspiring to fabricate data and mislead the world about the reality of AGW you know you have a real problem.  

Our net importers of craziness: denialist bloggers 

Our local denial movement does not just metaphorically import the craziness, it does so literally by circulating recycled “denialist literature” from the larger providers of this material.

The US is very much the homeland of climate change denial. Most of the large think tanks associated with funding and publishing denialist propaganda can be found in the US, while the movements most prominent members are mostly North American. This includes such luminaries of the denial movement as Republican Senator James Inhofe and blogger Anthony Watts (of “Watts up with that?”). 

Thanks to the Internet the quality of the debate in the US around climate change directly impacts our own conversations. Indeed, our local denial movement is dependent on these materials to populate content on their own blogs and web sites.

They “import” these material from blogs such as “Watts up with that?” (WUWT) and republish them as authoratative discussion on “the science”. A few mouse clicks, some copying and pasting and “hep presto” instant denial. 

Oakes in his article notes the effect (some) bloggers are having on the quality of political debate in the US, though the same applies to many other deabtes: 

“George W’s father, former president George H. W. Bush, spoke out last year in condemnation of attempts to demonise Obama. The President, he said, was “entitled to civil treatment and intellectual honesty when it comes to critics”. Bush Sr added: “People ought to be civil. I worry about yelling at people and this yelling mentality that seems to accompany presidents.” No one listened. Perhaps they just didn’t hear him above the yelling of the talkback ranters, the self-righteous cable TV egomaniacs and the bitter bloggers…” 

Thus, Oakes article could also be read as a shot across the bow of deniers such as the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt. Of course Bolt recognises this and takes a few swipes at Oakes here, ending his article with the fine words: 

“…In short, Oakes’ column is a self-pleasuring fantasy, produced by the very kind of tactics he condemns.” 

Naturally it escapes Andrew’s attention that he is engaging in the very thing Oakes warns us about. 

How to import the craziness: copy and paste 

Bolt’s blog is the main clearing house for denialist propaganda in Australia. With his blog registering millions of hits, Bolt is one of our biggest “net importers” of this denialist material. 

Bolt frequently republishes material from Roy Spencer, the creationist who also disputes the evidence for climate change. However most posts by Bolt related to climate change are simply republished blog entries from WUWT? one of the worlds largest “denialist blogs”. 

Don’t believe me? 

Have a look. 

Importing the craziness: the evidence 

Let’s have a look at a recent climate related blog post by Bolt posted on March 28. Note the topic and image:  

Such a pretty image...

Now, let’s look at post on WUWT that was posted on March 26. Again, note the text and the image:  

...which we've seen before

Both posts relate to the effects of global warming on England’s climate. Both use the same image and have near identical wording. 

I’ve noted that generally there is one to two days lag between what appears on WUWT and the material republished on Bolt’s blog. Its safe to say that a large percentage of Andrew Bolt’s “writing” (and let me emphasis those scare quotes)  on climate change is simply republished WUWT posts with some paraphrasing. 

No wonder Andrew Bolt was upset with Oakes comments, he knows exactly the issue our most respected political commentator is referring too. 

I’ll end this post by quoting Oakes directly: 

The language in our political discussion is becoming harsher and more alarmist. The quality of debate is declining. Partisan hostility is growing. 

We should not forget that the wing nuts are waiting. 

Sermon on the field: the world laughs at, not with, Ablett

Now that the final siren has sounded, it’s safe to assume team Ablett were crushed by team science. Let’s look at the “after the match” analysis.

PZ Myers at Pharyngula, perhaps the largest science blog in the world, picks up the story:

The rest of Ablett’s arguments are just as inane, and are similarly ripped off almost literally from common creationist canards. There’s nothing original and nothing intelligent anywhere in it — it’s just sad how feeble these guys are getting.

Jason Ball at Young Aussie Skeptics:

Ablett also talks about how abiogenesis is the theory that life can grow in peanut butter jars, that DNA has shown evolution to be false, all with large passages of the Bible chucked in at random. I dare you to read the entire thing.

It is possibly the most stupid thing I have ever read, and the funniest

Anarchist6[zero]6 has this to say:

I knew this girl who thought that the paperback copy of the Necronomicon  she owned gave her the power of call spirits from the earth. Now it is unlikely that many people would think that her views were correct. However, imagine she was famous, had been on reality TV or was a sports star; then perhaps she might be given prominent media space to shout her Cthulhu-views. Sounds crazy, I know but in Australia, a ex-footballer has been given a platform to wax lyrical about evolution.

Wikipedia picks up on the fact the article was mostly plagiarised:

On Friday March 26th, 2010, an article attributed to Ablett was published in the Victorian newspaper The Herald Sun.[2] It was soon after revealed that a large section of the article was lifted from the website of Grace Haven Ministries, a US evangelical organisation.

Radio announcer Derryn Hinch has this to say:

Ablett has decided to be the moral compass for a godless Australia. He says he is no scientist but dismisses the Theory of Evolution and atheists like Richard Dawkins in a couple of sentences.

He does admit he runs the risk of public ridicule, so here goes.

Ablett says people remember him for his on-field successes but also because of what he calls his ‘off-field moments which were not so successful’.  And says that in life we each experience our ups and downs.

Hew talks about a serious decline in moral values and drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdowns and ‘the devaluing of human life and dignity’.

He doesn’t mention Alisha Horan. That poor, star-struck teenager who died of a drug overdose – administered by Ablett – in a hotel room. Not much dignity in the way she died. And when he did a runner he didn’t place much value on her life.

About three years Ablett went down this Holy Roller route of self-justification. Also in the Herald Sun. He said he’d been ‘disappointed and grieved at how self-righteous some people can be. Considering everyone has their own skeletons in the closet’.

Not many have one concerning the death of a teenager, a friend of your daughter’s, an Ablett fan with your picture on her bedroom walls, whom you enticed on a drug-fuelled binge. Alisha Horan died in Ablett’s hotel room.

And Oztheist picks it up:

Ablett’s knowledge of evolution is basically non-existent and his regurgitating of several creationist ideas which have been well and truly debunked shows his total lack of research. It is also quite laughable of Ablett to try and lecture us on morals considering he supplied a 20 year old woman drugs from which she died whilst in his hotel room.

I have a suggestion to Mr Ablett, stick to talking about something you know – football.

I think it’s safe to assume that Ablett has kicked an own goal.

Now, all we need to do is alert the public to the fact that the claims of the denial movement are equally ludicrous.

The Herald Sun’s War on Science #1: evolution is just a “theory”

I’ll tip my hat to Tim Lambert over at Deltoid  for inspiring me. His continuing efforts to monitor The Australian’s “war on science” by casting doubt on climate science is a must read. Its a series of brilliant posts  dissecting that papers clumsy and deliberate attempts to confuse the climate debate.

The “Oz” belongs to a stable of Australian papers owned by Rupert Murdoch, which also includes Melbourne’s Herald Sun. Murdoch is also the owner of Fox News. No further comment needs to be made about just how “fair and balanced” Fox News is on science issues.

The Herald Sun declares war on all science.. not just climate science, all science.

Readers of this blog, and most Australians, are familiar with the Herald Sun. It’s a tabloid with a daily circulation exceeding one million. Its web site is popular. It is also the home of Australia’s most prominent denier of climate science, Andrew Bolt.

The Herald Sun hosts Bolt’s blog, which as Clive Hamilton has noted is one the main clearing houses for denialist propaganda in the Australian media. Bolt frequently writes misleading “opinion pieces” on the issue. Readers will know I’ve commented on Bolt numerous times.

However today I am stunned. Shocked actually.

Not because Bolt has written another one of his ill-informed and misleading attacks on climate science. No, today the Herald Sun has published two page article by ex-footballer Gary Ablett. It is nothing short than a full scale assault on the theory of evolution in an Australian major daily newspaper.

What has this to do with climate change denial?

Everything.

The link between the denial and creationist movements: denial and disdain for science

As readers of this blog will know, I’ve often drawn a link between the tactics of denialists and the creationist movement. Well, today the editors of the Herald Sun show their true colours and declare themselves at war with science.   Not just climate science, but science itself.

By allowing Ablett to publish his creationist drivel, they have given legitimacy to another anti-science movement. What’s next? An attack on the so “Copernican theory” or the so called “germ theory of disease?”. How about astronomy, or geology and evidence based medicine? Surely, these are future targets.

Ablett’s creationist howlers

Let’s look at some of the claims Ablett makes in his two page article:

“Man might look like an ape, act like a goat, eat like a pig, think like a jackass, be as stubborn as a mule and as cunning as a fox, but a man is still a man and has been that way right down through recorded history. I openly confess to being no scientist, nor will I try to pretend to be one. However, it is not hard for the average person to understand some of the basic laws and principles within the scientific world. There is so much misinformation out there called “science”, masquerading as “truth”, and because we’ve been taught to believe these falsehoods it takes an abundance of information to get these misconceptions unseated. So please bear with me as I may need to get quite technical to get my message across….”

An attack on this thing called “science”? This is no “there are other ways of knowing” argument: Ablett simply dismisses four hundred years of science in a paragraph. Let’s go on…

“…The fact is that fossil records do not support Darwin’s theory. Experts have come to realise that the gaps in the fossil records and the absence of precursor and intermediate forms are such that they can no longer be ignored or his theory be taken seriously. It was Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution himself, that confessed in a letter to Ossy Gray on September 5, 1857 that “one’s imagination must fill up the very blanks”…”

The fossil records does not support the theory of evolution? And quote mining Darwin? The fossil record provides an abundance of evidence supporting evolution (see here for the evolution of whales). Let’s go on…

“Let’s take another example. Evolution teaches that matter plus energy (light or heat) plus time equals biogenesis, the cause of new life.Yet our entire food industry relies on the fact that the evolutionary formula doesn’t work. For example, if you take a jar of peanut butter (matter), expose it to light and heat (energy) and add time you will never get new life (biogenesis) in that jar. And are we grateful about that! Why is new life impossible in a sealed jar? Because we are missing the most important aspect: information….”

Ablett confuses the theory of evolution with abiogenesis. Evolution does not attempt to address the origins of life. It is about how life evolves over time. Note how Ablett uses the incorrect terminology, biogenesis instead of abiogenesis. Abiogeneis is science’s attempt to understand the origins of life. See Wikipedia here for the distinction:

“In the natural sciences, abiogenesis (pronounced /eɪˌbaɪ.ɵˈdʒɛnɨsɪs/, ay-BYE-oh-JEN-ə-siss) or biopoesis is the theory of how life on Earth could have arisen from inanimate matter. It should not be confused with evolution, which is the study of how groups of already living things change over time, or with cosmology, which covers how the universe might have arisen…”

Biogenesis is the process of lifeforms producing other lifeforms. From eggs we get chickens, and from chickens we get eggs. No, don’t ask me which came first. And certainly don’t ask Abblet, he’ll struggle to find the appropriate scriptural verse. Let us go on…

“..But mathematicians say there is more chance of a hurricane going through a junk yard and assembling a fully operational 747 passenger jet. Now you and I may laugh at that because we can appreciate the “intelligent design”, the information, the knowledge, the creativity and skill it takes to put something so complex together.

Irreducible complexity? WTF?

I assume Ablett is a fan of Michael Behe and the Discovery Institute. Ablett is no doubt ignorant of the fact that intelligent design was clearly shown not to be science in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial in the US.  To take apart the entire article and correct the errors, logical fallacies would take days.

I’d recommend people go to The Panda’s Thumb and Why Evolution is True for a real understanding of evolutionary theory. There are dozens of books out there that easily refute Ablett’s religious propaganda.

I can only shake my head in dismay at the decision of the editors of the Herald Sun in allowing the publication of this grossly misleading attack on science.

And so begins our monitoring of “Herald Sun’s War on Science”.

(Note: I’m still shocked)

Addendum: article most likely ghost written.

As a friend of mine correctly pointed out, this article was more than likely ghost written. Not only do the Herald Sun’s editorial policies need to be called into question, but we have to feel some sympathy for Ablett who is clearly being exploited.

There are people willing to trade on Ablett’s name to push their own ideological agenda. Unfortunately, it would appear Ablett is far too trusting and has allowed himself to be their pawn. By “deferring” to those in authority, he compromises his own integrity.

Further addendum

The Young Austalian Skeptics have picked up the story, and encourage people to write to the Herald Sun. I second that, here the contact details.  It also appears that the article plagerises a great deal of material:

Update: He also plagiarized a massive amount of his article from Grace Haven Ministries. Look at Buggery​.org for details. So this is what passes for journalism at the Herald Sun? Thanks Martin Pribble for filling us in on this one.

Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap: “sceptical” journalist Jonathan Leake under scrutiny

Over the December 2009 and January 2010 period the denial movement went into over-dive in their attempts to tear down the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report.

The blogosphere and general media was “rocked” by Climategate (the stolen CRU emails) and then just as famously the supposed flaws in the IPCC report. First it was Glacier-gate, then followed Amazon-gate. The body blows to the scientific community came think and fast.

At the time Lord Monckton was touring Australia claiming the “times suited him”. Miranda Devine, the Sydney Morning Herald’s resident denier had this to say:

“…The latest revelation is that an IPCC claim about the Amazon rainforest was also drawn from a WWF report. The IPCC says it is simply a “human mistake” to parrot WWF press releases, as if they are credible science and not green propaganda, and no one bats an eyelid.”

Clearly there was a concentrated effort by the denial movement to mislead the public.

By trashing the reputation of the IPCC and the accuracy of the report, the denial movement hoped to shape public opinion. As I’ve noted, the vast majority of people have not taken the time to read the various documents that make up the Fourth Assessment report. As such, it is hard for them to understand it’s depth.

To be frank, the various “scandals” did create an impression that something was amiss at CRU and at the IPCC. But now that the hype is passed – or to choose another metaphor the rubble has settled – the truth is starting to emerge. It would appear that the actions of ethical behaviour of numerous journalists are now being questioned, and it does not look good.

Jonathan Leake, a journalist for the UK’s Sunday Times is now at the centre of a “scandal” (I promise to resist using Leake-gate) over the so called “Amazon-gate” affair.

Yet another “gate”?

One of the supposed mistakes the IPCC was to overstate the sensitivity of Amazon to climate change: the charge was that they relied upon non-peer reviewed materials and overstated the impact of climate change.

Well it seems the scientific expert on the issue – Simon Lewis in the UK – whose work informed the IPCC’s understanding of the issue is not taking it lying down. Climate Progress sums up the events nicely:

“The IPCC famously wrote:

Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation.

This statement in the 2007 IPCC is “basically correct but poorly written, and bizarrely referenced,” as Lewis told the BBC in January.  Indeed, the underlying science is quite strong, as made clear in a recent statement by 19 top U.S., U.K., and Brazilian scientists, including Lewis, who point out “there are multiple, consistent lines of evidence from ground-based studies published in the peer-reviewed literature that Amazon forests are, indeed, very susceptible to drought stress.”

That didn’t stop the anti-science blogosphere and media from spinning this into another phony “gate,” as ClimateSafety explained in an excellent post, “AmazonGate: how the denial lobby and a dishonest journalist created a fake scandal.”  Anti-science Blogger Richard North spun up the story, and it was turned into “news” by anti-science reporters James Delingpole of the Telegraph and Jonathan Leake of the Times…”

Simon Lewis has lodged a complaint with the UK’s Public Complaints Commission which handles complaints against the media in that country. It’s a 33 page document, however reading it one is struck by the disingenuous behaviour of Leake. In particular I’d note the following paragraph:

I spoke to Jonathan Leake on the afternoon of Saturday 30, a few hours before the article went to press, as he wanted to check the quotes he was using by me (checking quotes was agreed between ourselves on Friday 29 January). The entire article was read to me, and quotes by me agreed, including a statement that the science in the IPCC report was and is correct. The article was reasonable, and quotes were not out of context. Indeed I was happy enough that I agreed to assist in checking the facts for the graphic to accompany the article (I can supply the emails if necessary). Yet, following this telephone call the article was entirely and completely re-written with an entirely new focus, new quotes from me included and new (incorrect) assertions of my views. I ask the Sunday Times to disclose the version of article that was read out to me, and provide an explanation as to why the agreed correct, undistorted, un-misleading article, and specifically the quotes from me, was not published, and an entirely new version produced.

Was this a deliberate attempt by Leake to mislead Lewis?

The email exchange documented in the complaint is revealing: it clearly shows that Leake was provided with references to the correct information. Lewis went out of his way to assist Leake, only to have his acts repaid with a story that distorted the actual science.

What the denial movement and creationists have in common: premeditated deceit

It very much reminds me of the tactics used by of creationists when they tricked scientists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers into “appearing” in the film “Expelled: no intelligence allowed”.

This is further confirmation of two things: that (a) these  movements share a disdain for science and (b) will resort to the same grubby tactics.

The PCC will obviously make a determination at some point in the future, yet even so Lewis’ complaint is revealing. This gives us first hand evidence of the tactics of “sceptical” journalists whose writings bolster – and lend credibility to – the denial movement in the mainstream media.

We are now starting to uncover the dirty trick and tactics of the denial movement. For too long the denial movement have had a free pass, freely casting aspersions against scientists, politicians and activists. Putting them under the microscope will expose just how they distort the science, and by extension mislead the public.

It’s now the turn of the denial movement to be concerned. The spotlight is on them.

What else will we find?

Lies, damned lies and BoM maps! How Australia’s denial movement can’t read a map

As we mentioned a few weeks back, the joint report put out by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (“The State of the Climate”) was greeted by most of the denial movement with shock, and as can be expected, with disbelief.

Some such as Andrew Bolt went straight into an apoplectic meltdown and attacked the credibility of the CSRIO itself.

Others where curiously silent, and I did wonder when they would begin their counter attack. Well their assault on reason has begun but it’s more a whimper than a bang. The denial movements efforts can be best described as comical. I hesitate to use the word, but in reality their response shows a  failure to understand basic statistics and an inability to read a map.

Kenskingdom, Anrew Bolt and Jo Nova: trend, what trend!?!

Bolt is Australia’s most prominent denier, Nova operates on the fringes of the debate and the blogger at Kenskingdom is a rough untrained amateur. And yet in their attempt to discredit the report, they they each offer up the same argument. I’d suggest you have a look at each of the authors separate, but identical claims:

Andrew Bolt’s article directly lifts the claim from Jo Nova’s blog, and best paraphrases the separate arguments:

“…JoNova points out yet another trick the CSIRO pulled last week in its deceitful pamphet to whip up warmist panic. It published this Bureau of Meteorology graphic to show how our more populated areas have got much drier since 1960, thanks to (it claims) man-made warming…

So why did the CSIRO choose to show only the rainfall changes from 1960, when the BoM’s records go back many decades earlier?

Answer: perhaps befcause if it showed the rainfall changes from, say, 1900, you’d see that most of Australia has got wetter over the century…”

Two maps are produced, both of which are directly taken from the BoM’s website:

Annual rainfall trends 1900-2010

The above is annual rainfall trends over the last 110 years as recorded by the BoM. It is a statistical average showing precipitation over this time. The deniers then contrast this map with the map used in the the CSIRO report and are “shocked” by the difference:

Annual rainfall trends 1960-2010

The conclusion of all three is that it must be a “trick” and that the CSIRO and BoM are trying to pull a fast one. All I can say is “Oh dear guys, you really can’t even read a map can you?”

Clearly Bolt thinks the map showing the distribution for rainfall over the 1900-2010 period demonstrates Australia is getting wetter everywhere: in otherwords an upward trend in rainfall distribution across the continent. What Andrew fails to grasp is that this map shows a statistical average over the 110 year period. In order to observe how the trend varies we need to compare it to other data sets. BoM does just that.

Failing to understand trends: about the BoM trend maps

The BoM maps need to be viewed as a time line. Each map provides a statistical average over a period of time. As stated the map for 1900-2010 is the average over 110 years.

But how do you demonstrate any changes in rainfall patterns over time? You shorten the time periods incrementally and then calculate your rainfall averages. The BoM does so by reducing the average time period in ten year increments  and then calculates the average rain fall patterns. This is how to look for long term trends.

This is not a “trick”, it’s basic statistics. As the BoM states on their website:

The trend maps are a useful way to compare how the rainfall has changed in different regions of Australia over time.

Trend maps: misrepresenting the BoM’s data

One of the basic premises of climate change is how we have observed statistically valid changes in climate over time. The deniers can’t seem to grasp this basic concept. Let’s look at how Kenskingdom reads the maps:

Now this is technically correct, but it is also less than honest.  Australia has rainfall records going back in some places to the 1870s.  BOM’s charts and graphs are reliable apparently from 1900.  Why not show these?  Because they do NOT support the implication that Global Warming is causing much of Australia to become drier.

Sorry Kenskingdom, as I’ve stated the map is a static representation of data averaged over 110 years. The point of trend maps is to compare different data sets over time. This why BoM gives us to different trend maps covering different time periods. This is why you need to look at all them, in isolation they tell us very little about the trends themselves.

Let’s run the same maps, reducing the period in which you calculate your average rainfall  in ten year increments. When we do that we see a very a clear trend in changing rainfall patterns:

Trends in total rainfall 1900-2009

The above is the map that the deniers thinks somehow compromises CSIRO/BoM statements on changing rainfall. OK, for the last time this is a statistical average over a 110 year period. Now, lets slightly shorten that period by ten years as BoM and see if there are any emergent trends:

Trends in total rainfall 1910-2009

And again, let’s shorten that period by another ten years…

1920-2010

…and another ten years…

1930-2010

…and yes, that’s right, another ten years…

1940-2010

…keep going…

1950-2010

…just a bit more…

1960-2010

…are we there yet? No a bit more…

1970-2010

And there you go!

That’s a clearly recognisable trend. In simple terms there has been change in rainfall patterns. This is exactly what the science of climate change states. See all that brown stuff? As time has progressed parts of Australia are getting drier and receiving less rain. Some parts are now recieving more rain. This accords with legitimate climate science.  Nothing to see at all guys – right?

Back to denying reality then…

Logical fallacies and cherry picking data: the deniers old standbys

Had Nova, Bolt or Kenskingdom actually spent time on the BoM website where these reports can be freely generated by anyone, they would have seen how the long term trends are clearly demonstrated.

Instead they chose to look at very isolated maps: this is simply cherry picking data. I’ve reproduced the entire sequence of maps in order to show how they’ve used only a small selection of the data available.

Indeed, I’d strongly suggest all three of them fell for the cognitive bias of hunting for anomalies: looking for facts or data that somehow support their predetermined opinion.

Trust me, I’m an expert: researching a climate commentators expertise

"I say!"

Who can you trust?

In a debate as complex and technical as this one you need to have confidence in the experts. These are the individuals whose job is to help the general public navigate the torturous, and esoteric debate around the science.

However, in the climate debate not all is at it seems and not everyone is who they say they are. So how can you trust an expert? Luckily there is a wealth of resources and databases out there that can provide you information on the more prominent deniers out there whose job it is to mislead.

Biographical information: where to start looking

Always start by profiling the individual. There are some handy – and free – resources out there that can help you determine their expertise:

Sourcewatch

Sourcewatch is an excellent “wiki” style database developed and supported by the Centre for Media and Democracy. It’s mission is to “profile[s] the activities of front groups, PR spinners, industry-friendly experts, industry-funded organizations, and think tanks trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government. We also highlight key public policies they are trying to affect and provide ways to get involved…”

It has a great deal of information, including individual biographies of high profile individuals in the denial movement with some good links to other resources. A quick look at the page on Anthony Watts – of “Watts up with that” fame – gives you a good idea of the information they produce. I use this as my first port of call for researching individuals.

DeSmogBlog Information Database

The guys at DeSmog Blog have put together a great list of the most prominent “sceptics” in the climate change debate. It is not a search-able database, but is arranged alphabetically by the surname of “climate change sceptic”. The have good profiles which gives you basic biographical details (education, professional career etc.) and some notable facts.

Profiles that contain the most relevant information

University and research department websites

You’d be surprised just how much information the average university website has. Not only will it give you the  qualification of a scientist, but also a list all their publications. It also is a means to qualify their expertise: if an individual claims to be a scientists at a specific institution, go their website and look for proof!

More often than not there will be a searchable database of academic staff. Many of these sites also make available the full text of their publications, an added bonus to dedicated researchers.

Compare and contrast qualifications with profiles on the web

The home pages for right-wing institute and think tanks associated with the denial movement are worth visiting. Normally they will profile their experts and try and “sell” them as qualified to comment on the science. Checking this sources does two things:  it qualifies the claims of the individual and allows you to see how they are attempting to present themselves.

Let’s look at our old friend Richard S. Courtney again. . On his profile for the Heartland Institute it is claimed:

“He is an expert peer reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and in November 1997 chaired the Plenary Session of the Climate Conference in Bonn. In June 2000 he was one of 15 scientists invited from around the world to give a briefing on climate change at the US Congress in Washington DC, and he then chaired one of the three briefing sessions…”

As we have already discovered, the claims to being a scientist and a “expert reviewer” for the IPCC are simply false. This is not just misleading, they’re outright lies.

Wikipedia: a launch pad for research, not the end

I will use Wikipedia as a handy tool to help brief me on general concepts, and then dive into more specific research papers, reports and links. Indeed, the most valuable section in most Wikipedia entries is at the end of the page where it will list the sources consulted.

Don’t stop at Wikipedia, go to the resources it cites for further clarification.

This is where the real gold is...

Google: some search tips

Ah Google, my very good friend and bitter rival! You are the gateway for to the universe of knowledge. And yet the danger is that anyone with a website, blog or  YouTube account can publish and become an instant “expert”.

Treat everything you encounter you find on Google with a high degree of scepticism:

  • Pick your search terms – plugging in the term “climate science” will obviously wield millions of results. If want to understand what “global warming is”, then use search terms such as “climate change” and “understanding”. Google also has advanced search feature that will allow you to filter your results by date, media type and even country.
  • Start with scepticism – the first rule for using sources on Google is don’t trust them. Don’t start reading the website/blogs content uncritically. Read the section called “About” to get an understanding of the author/s intent and point of view.
  • Apply some filters – what is the authors expertise? Where have they published? Blogs are usually the strict opinion of the author and should taken as such (including this one). A blogger that purports to take apart climate science, and who lacks scientific traditional in the area is an enthusiastic amateur. They have no expertise, it’s just arm chair theorising. A scientist conducting research in that area usually as a far greater understanding of the real issues.

I hope this helps anyone out there wondering just how “expert” some of those familiar names are in the climate debate. Scepticism is a powerful tool to find the truth, not simply the oppurtunity to disagree.

Friday wrap up: articles of interest

Each Friday I’ll be posting a selection of some of the more interesting articles, studies and opinion pieces relating to the climate change debate.

When carbon dioxide didn’t affect climate – AGW Observer gives a history on how the “problem” of CO2 was finally understood. If you come across anyone claiming  we don’t understand how CO2 effects temperature, smile and say “Oh really…”

“This problem was solved in 1956, over 50 years ago. The solution is very straightforward and easy to understand, and it shouldn’t’t cause any confusion. Regardless of that, these already solved arguments are still presented in public forums as if they haven’t been solved….”

Crescendo-climategate-cacophony – DeSmogBlog points us to a brilliant, but dense study, highlighting the links between conservative think tanks and their campaign against science. Clearly demonstrates how they’ve been ramping up their efforts to mislead and misinform: 

“..A new paper by the computer scientist and entrepreneur John Mashey… digs ever deeper (and in an increasingly well-organized way), into the morass of deception and disinformation that has characterized the recent climate conversation. Mashey never uses the word “lies,” but somehow it seemed an appropriate illustration of what he finds underlying the recent campaign against climate science, scientists and anyone who respects their work…”

The report is not afraid to name the names, and concludes:

“…A tight network of organizations and individuals funded and executed the long campaign. They used well-honed tactics pioneered by tobacco companies, but to obscure the dangers of second-hand smoke, acid rain, chlorofluorocarbons and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The 5 characteristics of scientific denialism – from Skeptical Science this is an article I wish I’d written! Highlights the five most common characteristics of denialism:

  1. Conspiracy theories – When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes something is true, the denialist won’t admit scientists have independently studied the evidence to reach the same conclusion. Instead, they claim scientists are engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The South African government of Thabo Mbeki was heavily influenced by conspiracy theorists claiming that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. When such fringe groups gain the ear of policy makers who cease to base their decisions on science-based evidence, the human impact can be disastrous.
  2. Fake experts – These are individuals purporting to be experts but whose views are inconsistent with established knowledge. Fake experts have been used extensively by the tobacco industry who developed a strategy to recruit scientists who would counteract the growing evidence on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. This tactic is often complemented by denigration of established experts, seeking to discredit their work. Tobacco denialists have frequently attacked Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, for his exposure of tobacco industry tactics, labelling his research ‘junk science’.
  3. Cherry picking – This involves selectively drawing on isolated papers that challenge the consensus to the neglect of the broader body of research. An example is a paper describing intestinal abnormalities in 12 children with autism, which suggested a possible link with immunization. This has been used extensively by campaigners against immunization, even though 10 of the paper’s 13 authors subsequently retracted the suggestion of an association.
  4. Impossible expectations of what research can deliver – The tobacco company Philip Morris tried to promote a new standard for the conduct of epidemiological studies. These stricter guidelines would have invalidated in one sweep a large body of research on the health effects of cigarettes.
  5. Misrepresentation and logical fallacies – Logical fallacies include the use of straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented, making it easier to refute. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in 1992 that environmental tobacco smoke was carcinogenic. This was attacked as nothing less than a ‘threat to the very core of democratic values and democratic public policy’.

I’ve encountered all five, however I’d add a sixth: abuse, cyber-bullying and personal attacks on opponents.

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